Major US fuel pipeline forced to halt operations following cyber attack

In an event that has the potential to significantly disrupt the nation’s energy resources and cause serious headaches for the Biden administration, major supply Colonial Pipeline was forced take operations offline on Friday as the result of what appears to have been a cyber attack of serious proportions, as Reuters reports.

Early indications are that the attack represents one of the most serious ransomware incidents in history, and underscores the deep vulnerability of American energy infrastructure to hacking of this type. The pipeline company issued a statement on the event, saying, according to Breitbart:

On May 7, the Colonial Pipeline Company learned it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack. In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT Systems

Colonial Pipeline provides roughly half of fuel supply to the East Coast, and should a lengthy shutdown of these 5,500 miles of pipeline be required, prices are predicted to spike during the run-up to the peak travel season this summer, something the economy – still rebounding from the effects of the pandemic – can ill afford.

Amy Myers Jaffe of the Climate Policy Lab sounded the alarm about the potential impact of the shutdown, saying, “This is as close as you can get to the jugular of infrastructure in the United States,” adding, “It’s not a major pipeline. It’s the pipeline,” Reuters noted.

The Washington Post reported that officials from federal law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security have begun investigation the situation, but “do not yet know whether the attack on top U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline was carried out by foreign government actors or a criminal group.”

Even so, one sources close to the probe indicated that investigators are honing in on a group known as “DarkSide,” that has a history of using ransomware and other extortion techniques, but which has established a pattern of steering clear of targets within post-Soviet countries, according to Reuters.

CNBC reported that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Sunday that federal authorities are working to prevent serious supply disruptions.

During an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Raimondo declared, “This is what businesses now have to worry about. Unfortunately, these sorts of attacks are becoming more frequent. They’re here to stay.”

Because there is yet to be a projected timeline for Colonial’s operations to come back online, the eventual impact on fuel prices remains to be seen, but the danger to the Biden administration’s post-pandemic economic recovery appears to be quite serious, indeed.