Colonial Pipeline posted a ‘Cyber Security Manager’ job listing two months ago

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Traffic on I-95 passes oil storage tanks owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company in Linden, N.J. A major pipeline that transports fuels along the East Coast says it had to stop operations because it was the victim of a cyberattack. Colonial Pipeline said in a statement late Friday that it “took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems.” (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(NEXSTAR) — Colonial Pipeline, the operator of a major U.S. fuel pipeline recently hit by a cyberattack, started its search for a “Cyber Security Manager” two months ago, according to an active job listing. The job listing says the company is still actively seeking “someone who has an understanding of emerging security threats in order to design security policies and procedures to mitigate threats where possible.”

The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who locked up computer systems and demanded a ransom to release them.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the company said the job listing is not related to the recent cyberattack and is part of a larger “growth strategy” at the company.

“The cybersecurity position was not created as a result of the recent ransomware attack,” the company said in the statement to Bloomberg.

Company executives have said they will decide by Wednesday if they will begin the process of restarting the pipeline.

The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on the pipeline for fuel. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.

“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”

In North Carolina, 28% of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country. In Raleigh-Durham it was worse, with 72% of gas stations out of fuel.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper urged people Wednesday to only buy gas if their tank is low, and to report any instances of price gouging.

“We will continue our efforts to help make sure there is an adequate supply of fuel,” Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Cooper declared a state of emergency Monday, initiating fuel waivers that make it easier to transport fuel into the state.

Georgians were also getting squeezed, with 17.5% of stations there out of gas, according to Gasbuddy.com. In Virginia, 17% of stations were out, and in South Carolina, 16% had no fuel.

A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday.

However, the disruption is taking place at the time of year when Americans begin to become more mobile, especially as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline ticked above $3 for the first time since 2016 Wednesday, according to the AAA auto club. Prices begin to rise around this time every year, and the AAA auto club said Wednesday that the average price hit $3.008 nationally.

“You go to some states, and you’re going to see much higher increases, especially in the South, because that’s where you’re seeing the largest impact in terms of strain of gasoline, or strain of people,” McGee said.

The AAA expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day weekend, up 60% from last year, which was the lowest since AAA began keeping records in 2000.

Multiple U.S. agencies are coordinating efforts to avert any potential shortage, should they arise.

The White House said Wednesday that the Department of Transportation is now allowing Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to use interstate highways to transport overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels under existing disaster declarations.

The department’s Maritime Administration completed a review of potential actions available under the Jones Act, a U.S. maritime law that requires shipments between U.S. ports, including fuel, to be moved by American-flagged ships.

The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to review any temporary Jones Act waiver requests from companies if there is not sufficient capacity to get to regions suffering fuel shortages, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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