Colonial pipelne

A ransomware attack shut down a 5,500 mile pipeline that provides nearly half of the gasoline and jet fuel for the eastern United States. 

The Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Houston, Texas to the Port of New York and New Jersey, was disabled following a ransomware-based cyberattack on Friday, May 7. The Colonial Pipeline Company confirmed the attack the following day.

“[W]e proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems,” said the company in a press release. “Upon learning of the issue, a leading, third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged, and they have launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, which is ongoing.” The company declined to provide a timeline for when service would be restored.

The FBI has since attributed the cyberattack to DarkSide, a hacking group known for widespread ransomware as a service (RaaS) campaigns. Although DarkSide is thought to be based in Russia and largely avoids Russia-based targets, the group has denied any ulterior motives behind the attack.

“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” said the group in a statement. “Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society.”

Although there is no link here, Bleeping Computer reported that DarkSide had a code of conduct. The off-limits list reported includes schools, universities, hospitals, hospices, non-profit bodies and the government. Instead, DarkSide claims to target only those entities that can afford to pay a ransom.

The Biden administration declared a regional state of emergency following the attack, which underscores the problem with the code of ethics, since there is a very established history of oil prices spiking dramatically whenever the supply chain is hit. The cost of this attack will certainly be felt by consumers who cannot afford to take a hit on their daily commute as businesses increasingly open up again. 

“This Emergency Declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations while providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products into the Affected States during the emergency from shortages due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stated May 9.