A ransomware cyberattack has disrupted the operations of Colonial Pipeline. They supply up to 45% of the East Coast’s supply of gas at the pump. A combination of gas stations not being refueled due to the disruption and customer panic has caused gas shortages in several states. Pictures of customers filling up dozens of jerry cans with gasoline have already popped up online. The panic here is reminiscent of the run on toilet paper toward the beginning of the pandemic. Although Colonial Pipeline says they should be back up and running in a few days, that hasn’t quite calmed things down.
News media say that the ransomware attack was done by a Russian group. Irresponsible news outlets and reporters are alluding to “the Russians” causing the issue. This is not the case… at least not according to the available information. According to Reuters, the group known as DarkSide says their goal is to make money, not to cause chaos. Ransomware is best described as a virus that renders computers and computer systems useless until a ransom is paid. The amount requested here has not been disclosed to the public. But these types of situations can take weeks to resolve.
Not all of the pipeline in question requires internet connectivity to operate. The ransomware is affecting remote, efficient operation. Colonial Pipeline says that they are manually operating a portion of the pipeline from North Carolina to Maryland. This may or may not be possible to do across the entire pipeline that stretches from Houston refineries, throughout most of the South, and up almost to New York City. Regardless of how the technical situation is handled in the meantime, the operation should be back to normal very soon.
A report from 2017 says that Colonial needed to upgrade their system to include 2FA (Two Form Authentication) to heighten security. They allegedly failed to do so because of the cost. Now, gas prices will go up due to the interruption, panic, and potential price gouging at some gas stations. So the consumer will ultimately pay now for the immediate situation and possibly later due to the ransomware attack costs being levied upon the consumer. Gas was already headed up as far as price is concerned. This embarrassing cyberattack incident will simply make it worse.
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