FBI confirms source of fuel pipeline ransomware attack, could be back by week’s end

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FILE – In this Sept. 20, 2016 file photo vehicles are seen near Colonial Pipeline in Helena, Ala. 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/Brynn Anderson, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) —  Hit by a cyberattack, the operator of a major U.S. fuel pipeline said Monday it hopes to have services mostly restored by the end of the week as the FBI and administration officials identified the culprits as a gang of criminal hackers.

The FBI confirmed ransomware used to disable the fuel pipeline belongs to a notorious group that has infected other computer systems previously, known as DarkSide.

The Colonial Pipeline transports gasoline and other fuel through 10 states between Texas and New Jersey. It delivers roughly 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, according to the company.

At the moment, though, officials said there is no fuel shortage.

Colonial Pipeline said Saturday that it had been hit by a ransomware attack and had halted all pipeline operations to deal with the threat. DarkSide cultivates a Robin Hood image of stealing from corporations and giving a cut to charity. The FBI has investigated this ransomware variant since October 2020.

Colonial believes they have not suffered permanent damage and could bring the pipeline back online “quickly,” Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said at Monday’s White House news briefing. Colonial is responsible for restoring the pipeline to working order, she said. The government would step in to help states if a fuel shortage develops.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger said the decision of whether to pay the ransom will be left to Colonial, and the U.S. has not offered guidance.

President Joe Biden Monday said there was no evidence so far that Russia was involved in the cyberattack, though there is evidence that the hackers’ ransomware is in Moscow.

“I’m going to be meeting with President Putin, and so far there is no evidence based on, from our intelligence people, that Russia is involved, although there’s evidence that the actors’ ransomware is in Russia,” Biden said. “They have some responsibility to deal with this.”

Biden did not announce the date or location of the meeting with Putin.

Futures for crude and fuel, prices that traders pay for contracts for delivery at some point in the future, typically begin to rise each year as the driving season approaches. The price you pay at the gas pump tends to follow.

A company that operates a major U.S. energy pipeline says it was forced to temporarily halt all pipeline operations following a cybersecurity attack.

The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline has jumped 6 cents over the past two weeks to $3.02 per gallon, which is $1.05 higher than it was a year ago. Those numbers are skewed somewhat because the nation was going into lockdown due to the pandemic.

The attack on the Colonial Pipeline could exacerbate that upward pressure on prices if it is unresolved for a period of time.

Futures jumped 1.5% Monday, the largest movement in about a week, with the potential for disruptions in fuel delivery still unknown.

Colonial is in the process of restarting portions of its network. It said Sunday that its main pipeline remained offline but that some smaller lines were operational.

For the moment, seesawing prices may be felt mostly within the energy industry as suppliers adjust to potential shifts in the flow of gasoline.

More fuel may be sourced from East Cost refiners, J.P. Morgan said Monday, and an extended outage along the Colonial Pipeline would force suppliers to seek fuel from the Midwest rather than the Gulf.

In response to the attack, the Biden administration loosened regulations for the transport of petroleum products on highways as part of an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to avoid disruptions in the fuel supply.

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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