Colonial Pipeline begins pumping gas again after Russian cyberattack shut it down for six days

Fuel will start flowing through the Colonial Pipeline again, the company announced on Wednesday – six days after America’s largest pipeline closed down due to a ransomware attack.

Swaths of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia are struggling with fuel shortages, and more than 10,000 gas stations have run dry as of Wednesday.

Sections of the pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey, were re-opened manually on Monday, but the main lines were closed until now, causing significant disruption.  

The news will come as a huge relief to motorists and plane passengers, after American Airlines announced they were adding stops to some of their long-haul flights from Charlotte, North Carolina, as a result of the crisis. American will resume normal service on Thursday.

Colonial's operators announced the restart in a statement posted on their website

Colonial's operators announced the restart in a statement posted on their website

Colonial’s operators announced the restart in a statement posted on their website

It will also take the pressure off the Biden administration, which is facing mounting criticism of its handling of the drama – not least from Donald Trump.

The Biden administration has been frustrated by Colonial’s handling of the attack, CNN reported, and officials have privately reprimanded the company. 

However, Colonial warned that the relief would not be instant, and that it would take time to get the 5,500-mile pipeline fully operational. 

Colonial Pipeline said in a statement: ‘It will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. 

‘Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.’  

Trump has described the fuel shortages affecting parts of the East Coast the ‘Biden Gas Crisis,’ as other Biden critics demanded the White House do more to alleviate the growing problem.

‘I see that everybody is comparing Joe Biden to Jimmy Carter. It would seem to me that is very unfair to Jimmy Carter,’  Trump said in a statement, referring to the Democratic president who was in office during the 1979 oil crisis.

‘Jimmy mishandled crisis after crisis, but Biden has CREATED crisis after crisis,’ he said. 

‘Joe Biden has had the worst start of any president in United States history, and someday, they will compare future disasters to the Biden Administration—but no, Jimmy was better!’ 

Colonial Pipeline reportedly has no plans to pay rumored $5 million-plus ransom to Russian hackers who have paralyzed the key gas pipeline.

Biden on Wednesday vowed to get the fuel crisis ‘under control’, with pressure mounting on his administration to do more. 

‘We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline,’ Biden said on Wednesday, without offering further details. 

‘I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours and I think we’ll be getting that under control.’ 

Critics of the administration are already placing the blame for the fuel crisis squarely in Biden’s lap, demanding concrete answers on what his administration is doing to ease the crisis, which entered its sixth day on Wednesday as gas shortages spread from Baltimore to Florida.

But the Biden administration is said to be troubled by Colonial’s own response.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, suggested at a White House briefing Tuesday that the administration is examining Colonial Pipeline’s vulnerabilities.

‘In cybersecurity, one is only as strong as one’s weakest link. And therefore we are indeed focused on identifying those weak links,’ he said on Tuesday.

Colonial is still investigating the attack, and did not contact CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. 

‘Our understanding is that that is part of the investigation that Colonial’s response vendor is still undertaking. That information has not yet been shared with the US government,’ said CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein, speaking to CNN.

Colonial Pipeline also did not contact CISA in the wake of the cyberattack, according to a senior cyber official at the agency, Brandon Wales. 

The company notified the FBI of the attack on Friday morning and is continuing to work with the agency regularly, a spokesperson for the company said.

‘They did not contact CISA directly,’ Wales told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. 

‘We were brought in by the FBI after they were notified about the incident.’

Wales said CISA ‘received information fairly quickly in concert with the FBI’ and that it was ‘not surprising’ to be waiting for technical information, since it’s still early in the investigation.

‘We have had historically good relationship with both Colonial, as well as the cybersecurity firms that are working on their behalf,’ he added.

When pressed on whether it was a ‘problem’ that CISA was not notified directly, Wales said: ‘I think that there’s a benefit when CISA is brought in quickly because the information that we glean, we work to share it in a broader fashion to protect other critical infrastructure.’ 

North Carolina has been the state hardest-hit by fuel shortages, with 65 per cent of all gas stations dry in the state, but millions of motorists across the South were impacted, and the price of gas hit a seven-year high nationwide. 

Fears were growing that the shutdown could have extended into the weekend, creating broader fuel disruptions and spike gas prices across the nation ahead of the travel-heavy Memorial Day holiday. 

Meanwhile, price gougers in Virginia have been busted charging up to $6.99 per gallon, and police in Charlotte are warning residents to ‘limit non-essential travel’ as more than 70 per cent of gas stations in the city run dry.

In metro Atlanta, more than 60 per cent of gas stations had no fuel on Wednesday, and the rate exceeded 70 per cent in Raleigh, North Carolina and Pensacola, Florida.  

The impact of the crisis is rippling across the country, with the national average price of gas exceeding $3 for the first time since 2014, after the Colonial Pipeline was disabled by a Russian ransomware attack on Friday.    

Biden addressed the crisis in remarks to reporters on Wednesday, saying of gas prices: 'I think you're going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we'll be getting that under control.'

Biden addressed the crisis in remarks to reporters on Wednesday, saying of gas prices: 'I think you're going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we'll be getting that under control.'

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called on the Biden administration to 'step up' and do more to ease the fuel crisis that is gripping the southern Atlantic seaboard, after hackers tied to Russia disabled a key pipeline

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called on the Biden administration to 'step up' and do more to ease the fuel crisis that is gripping the southern Atlantic seaboard, after hackers tied to Russia disabled a key pipeline

Biden vows ‘you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours’ but Republican critics including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) say that his administration needs to do more to mitigate the crisis

A motorist looking for gas drives past closed pumps at an Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Virginia on Wednesday

A motorist looking for gas drives past closed pumps at an Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Virginia on Wednesday

A motorist looking for gas drives past closed pumps at an Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Virginia on Wednesday

Long lines form in Annapolis, Maryland on Wednesday as the fuel shortage continues to spread

Long lines form in Annapolis, Maryland on Wednesday as the fuel shortage continues to spread

Long lines form in Annapolis, Maryland on Wednesday as the fuel shortage continues to spread

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station

A witness said a woman tried to cut the line for gas, and then screamed obscenities and spit on a man who refused to let her in

A witness said a woman tried to cut the line for gas, and then screamed obscenities and spit on a man who refused to let her in

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station

It comes on a day of fast-moving developments in the fuel crisis, with:

  • Republican critics lashing out at the Biden administration, blaming the president for the gas shortage 
  • The average national gasoline price rising above $3.00 a gallon on Wednesday, the highest since 2014
  • In metro Raleigh 72% of gas stations are running dry, in Charlotte 71%, and in metro Atlanta 60%
  • Colonial Pipeline saying it will decide today whether it is safe to resume pipeline operations
  • Supply chain bracing for Memorial Day weekend with more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles
  • Biden administration urging motorists not to deepen the crisis with unnecessary panic buying
  • U.S. Energy Secretary saying officials are considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary
  • Shortages spreading to the Florida panhandle as well as Washington DC and Baltimore
  • States of Emergency in effect in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia  

Times Square shooting suspect arrested in Fla. after running out of gas 

Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, was arrested on Wednesday in Starke, Florida

Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, was arrested on Wednesday in Starke, Florida

Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, was arrested on Wednesday in Starke, Florida

The prime suspect in the Times Square shooting that injured two women and a four year old girl has been arrested after running out of gas. 

Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, was arrested on Wednesday in Starke, Florida near Jacksonville after being stranded by gas station closures.

Police apprehended him while he was eating fries in a McDonald’s parking lot. 

An estimated 11 percent of Florida gas stations are dry, with the closures more abundant in the northern part of the state near Jacksonville. 

Muhammad’s apprehension came four days and 975 miles way from the scene of Saturday evening’s shooting. His head was recently shaved in what police say was an attempt at a disguise.

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Demand across the region was enough to push overall U.S. gasoline demand on Tuesday up more than 13 per cent from the previous week. 

‘I think this is something that demands really serious federal attention. This was essentially a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in our country,’ Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said in Jacksonville on Tuesday evening. 

‘You can’t just say it’s a private pipeline therefore, we’re not going to be involved. No, the U.S. government needs to be involved. They need to help mitigate this,’ said DeSantis.

‘My fear is you have these gas shortages, it’s going to cause a lot of problems for people, just the convenience of life, but also for our economy,’ he added.  

The Biden administration insists that it is taking steps to address the crisis, by relaxing regulations on trucking to help resupply dry stations and considering suspending rules that mandate American ships be used for transfers between U.S. ports. 

Ryan Streblow, interim president of National Tank Truck Carriers, a trade association, welcomed the move, but told The Washington Post that his industry was also suffering from a labor shortage.

The country as a whole has about 10 per cent fewer tanker drivers than it did before the pandemic, Streblow said. 

‘And you magnify that challenge when you have a disruption in the supply chain.’ 

Biden also called for more education funding to train cybersecurity experts, with his remarks coming after Republican critics slammed his administration for not doing more to mitigate the fuel crisis that has gripped the southern Atlantic seaboard. 

The administration is also pushing the crisis as a reason why the president’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package should be approved. 

‘There is a lot that is involved in getting a pipeline up and running,’ Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the daily White House briefing on Wednesday. 

‘We’re not wasting any time, and haven’t been since even over the weekend, in taking the steps that are needed to mitigate any shortages.’

Buttigieg also urged against ‘hoarding’ gas and issued an extraordinary warning to desperate motorists, saying ‘Under no circumstances should gasoline ever be put into a plastic bag.’  

The White House also said top officials were considering new ways to alleviate the shortages, following a raft of waivers easing quality standards for gasoline and extending working hours for fuel truckers to boost shipments. 

‘Our top priority right now is getting the fuel the communities that need it, and we will continue doing everything that we can to meet that goal in the coming days,’ Buttigieg told reporters at the White House. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission echoed his dire warning in a tweet: ‘Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.’ 

 

Biden administration critics including Donald Trump are calling the situation the 'Biden Gas Crisis'

Biden administration critics including Donald Trump are calling the situation the 'Biden Gas Crisis'

Biden administration critics including Donald Trump are calling the situation the ‘Biden Gas Crisis’

Rather than pay off ransom demands of the criminal hacker gang DarkSide, Colonial plans to work with cybersecurity firm Mandiant to restore the data from backup systems where possible and rebuild systems where backups are unavailable, two people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post.

DarkSide ransom demands can range from $500,000 to more than $5 million, according to Mandiant. 

Pipeline sought cybersecurity manager for past month 

The U.S. pipeline shut down by ransomware hackers late last week has been looking for a cyber manager at its Atlanta headquarters for more than a month.

The position as the Manager, Cyber Security at Colonial Pipeline’s headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia remains open, according to the company’s website and a job listing on LinkedIn. 

So far, there have been 32 applicants on LinkedIn.

The pipeline, which supplies nearly half of the fuel on the East Coast, has been shut since Friday after a ransomware attack the FBI attributed to DarkSide, a group cyber experts believe is based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

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‘If the reports are correct and Colonial has indeed refused to pay, it did the right thing,’ Brett Callow, a threat analyst with Emsisoft, told DailyMail.com.

‘Ransomware attacks happen for one reason and one reason only: they make money. If the criminals were to find that attacks on critical infrastructure were profitable, there’d be more attacks on critical infrastructure. It’s a simple as that,’ he added.

The servers used by DarkSide to store data stolen from Colonial have reportedly been seized by the New York hosting firm that owned them, cutting off the hackers’ ability to release the company’s sensitive data — a key extortion threat.

Now, Colonial will have to carefully restore its systems, checking at every point along the way to make sure the hackers have been rooted out. It is unclear how long the process will take. 

Meanwhile, the chaos for motorists continued to spread. 

In Richmond, Virginia, the BP Gas station on Williamsburg Road was charging $6.99 per gallon at one point, shocking drivers who didn’t check the price before filling up, according to WTVR-TV

‘This BP service station has always been the cheapest, and I didn’t even look at the price before I started pumping,’ motorist Lether Kerney told the outlet. 

‘I had half a tank of gas, so when it got to $25 I started looking to see what was going on. And after I got to $30, I was like, ‘oh my God!’ 

A reporter with the CBS affiliate went into the store and spoke with a store official about the high prices. That official said they had run completely out of gas. Within minutes the sign was turned off. 

In Charlotte, police warned residents to stay home if possible and limit all essential travel – though buses and trains have suspended fare collection to help with essential travel.

‘If you do not have to come out and go out, please do not,’ Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Captain Brad Koch warned the public on Wednesday.

‘Do not hoard fuel. We are going to get through this, similar to whenever we have severe weather and we seem to lose a lot of bread and milk at the stores, similarly to last year at the beginning of the pandemic when all the stores were out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer,’ Koch warned. 

‘I’m confident people still have a lot of hand sanitizer that they will not ever use. So do not hoard fuel, treat each other with grace and courtesy and compassion and understanding and know that we as a community are going to get through this fuel crisis,’ he said. 

Motorists line up at an Exxon station selling gas at $3.29 per gallon soon after its fuel supply was replenished in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday

Motorists line up at an Exxon station selling gas at $3.29 per gallon soon after its fuel supply was replenished in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday

Motorists line up at an Exxon station selling gas at $3.29 per gallon soon after its fuel supply was replenished in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday

Motorists fill up gas cans at a Shell station in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday amid a fuel shortage

Motorists fill up gas cans at a Shell station in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday amid a fuel shortage

Motorists fill up gas cans at a Shell station in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday amid a fuel shortage

Fights are even breaking out at the gas pump in some places. 

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station.

A witness said a woman tried to cut the line for gas, and then screamed obscenities and spit on a man who refused to let her cut in. The man jumped out of his vehicle, spit on the woman in return, and began grappling with her, video shows. No arrests could be confirmed in the incident.

The gas station chain Parker’s, which serves Georgia and South Carolina, announced on Facebook that customers would be limited to $50 worth of gas as a rationing measure.  

The fuel crunch comes as a double-whammy to U.S. consumers, as new data on Wednesday showed inflation hitting its highest level in 12 years in April. 

With nearly 70 per cent of all retail goods distributed by truck, the fuel crisis is also threatening supply chains across the impacted region.

In metro Atlanta, nearly 60 per cent of all gas stations are dry, 71 per cent of stations in Charlotte are offline, and across the state of North Carolina two thirds of all stations have no gas, said GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan on Wednesday.  

Cars line up on Pine Plaza Drive for gas at the Costco in Apex, North Carolina on Wednesday, as panic buying deepens the fuel shortage caused by the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline

Cars line up on Pine Plaza Drive for gas at the Costco in Apex, North Carolina on Wednesday, as panic buying deepens the fuel shortage caused by the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline

Cars line up on Pine Plaza Drive for gas at the Costco in Apex, North Carolina on Wednesday, as panic buying deepens the fuel shortage caused by the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline

A Citgo Gas Station in Atlanta with a sign posted on it that reads "Out of Gas" on Wednesday as the fuel crisis continues

A Citgo Gas Station in Atlanta with a sign posted on it that reads "Out of Gas" on Wednesday as the fuel crisis continues

A Citgo Gas Station in Atlanta with a sign posted on it that reads ‘Out of Gas’ on Wednesday as the fuel crisis continues

Long lines of cars wait for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline

Long lines of cars wait for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline

Long lines of cars wait for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline

Tairez Coleman uses his bike for transportation after filling a can with gas at the Circle K on Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina after his car ran out of gas. Across North Carolina, 65% of gas stations are now out of gas

Tairez Coleman uses his bike for transportation after filling a can with gas at the Circle K on Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina after his car ran out of gas. Across North Carolina, 65% of gas stations are now out of gas

Tairez Coleman uses his bike for transportation after filling a can with gas at the Circle K on Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina after his car ran out of gas. Across North Carolina, 65% of gas stations are now out of gas

The ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline last week halted 2.5 million barrels per day of fuel shipments in the most disruptive cyberattack on U.S. energy infrastructure ever. 

US consumer prices jump the most in 12 years as inflation rises

U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy pushed against supply constraints, which could fuel financial market fears of a lengthy period of higher inflation.

The report from the Labor Department on Wednesday also showed a strong building up of underlying price pressures. 

Demand is being driven by nearly $6 trillion in government relief since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States in March 2020 and the vaccination of more than a third of the population.

The consumer price index jumped 0.8 percent last month, the largest gain since June 2009. 

In the 12 months through April, the CPI shot up 4.2%. That was the largest gain since September 2008 and followed a 2.6% increase in March. 

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The FBI has confirmed that the DarkSide ransomware group is behind the attack, and the criminal gang is believed to be based in Eastern Europe or Russia and operate with the tacit approval of the Russian government. 

A cybersecurity source tells DailyMail.com that the group scans targets and does not attack them if their systems use the Russian language. 

Russia’s Embassy in the United States rejected speculation that Moscow was behind the attack. 

Biden stopped short of blaming the Russian government for the attack, but said there was evidence the hackers were based in Russia. 

It is unknown how much money the hackers are seeking, and Colonial has not commented on whether it would pay off the criminal gang. 

The Colonial Pipeline stretches 5,500 miles from U.S. Gulf Coast oil refineries to consumers in Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.

The pipeline’s private operator manually opened portions of the line to release some needed supplies in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas. 

It has accepted 2 million barrels of fuel to begin a restart that would ‘substantially’ restore operation by week’s end, the company said.

The supply crunch, amid panic buying by motorists, has brought long lines and high prices at gas stations ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of this month, which traditionally marks the start of the peak summer driving season.

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

De Haan, the GasBuddy analyst, said on Wednesday morning that there were only slight fuel shortages at the wholesale level, suggesting that the main issue was finding enough trucks to distribute gasoline to stations.

He said that nearly 1,800 gas stations were out of fuel across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Maryland and Virginia.

‘A lot of that is because they’re selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,’ said S&P analyst Tom Kloza.

The pipeline runs from the Texas Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan area, with the states most dependent on it including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, Kloza said.

To ease shortages, the White House is considering temporarily waiving a law that says ships delivering products between US ports must be built and manned by Americans.

The Transportation Department also is relaxing some workforce requirements and enlisting railroads to deliver fuel inland, while the Environmental Protection Agency has lifted some fuel quality requirements on an emergency basis.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said officials are considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary. 

Secretary Granholm also warned service station owners: ‘We will have no tolerance for price gouging.’

Long lines form for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the South

Long lines form for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the South

Long lines form for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the South

A huge line forms for gasoline at Costco on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday. As the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered into its fifth day, efforts are under way to stave off potential fuel shortages

A huge line forms for gasoline at Costco on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday. As the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered into its fifth day, efforts are under way to stave off potential fuel shortages

A huge line forms for gasoline at Costco on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday. As the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered into its fifth day, efforts are under way to stave off potential fuel shortages

People line up to get gas at a station in Stevensville, Maryland on Wednesday, as the fuel shortage deepens

People line up to get gas at a station in Stevensville, Maryland on Wednesday, as the fuel shortage deepens

People line up to get gas at a station in Stevensville, Maryland on Wednesday, as the fuel shortage deepens

On Tuesday, the governors of Florida, Virginia and Georgia joined North Carolina in declaring states of emergency in a bid to protect fuel supplies, with some gas pumps already dry in Atlanta and other cities.    

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, said that the state of emergency already in effect for the COVID-19 pandemic made it unnecessary to issue a new declaration.

How did hackers disrupt the fuel supply?

The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.

But the country’s 2.7 million miles of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators.

In the case of Colonial Pipeline, the hacker gang DarkSide gained access to the company’s IT systems and locked them with an encryption key, demanding ransom to release the network. 

The systems that Colonial was forced to take offline initially halted all flow through the pipeline, though some flow has been manually restored. 

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‘Because our state is currently under a state of emergency, transportation waivers and price gouging laws are in effect to facilitate fuel delivery and protect consumers,’ McMaster said in a tweet. 

The Colonial 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.’

The average national gasoline price rose to above $3.00 a gallon on Wednesday, the highest since 2014, the American Automobile Association said. 

The fuel shortage has caused frustration for drivers across the South, sending motorists on desperate hunts for stations that still have gas.

‘This place is dead closed,’ said Charles Staples, a 31-year-old banker, after circling rows of shut fuel pumps in his Volvo at an Atlanta station. ‘I heard about the thing, but I just thought they’d be long lines or something.’

In Raleigh, the last few stores with gas were those along major thoroughfares, said Todd Sloan, a general contractor. ‘Those that have fuel have very long lines,’ he said. 

De Haan, the petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said on Wednesday that panic buying had become an even bigger issue than the pipeline outage.

He said that the ‘racks’ where tanker trucks pull fuel had fairly good supply, but that tankers were unable to get gas to stations quickly enough to keep up with soaring demand at gas stations.

‘There are a couple suppliers at these racks without fuel, but overall this has turned into a panic and hoarding situation,’ De Haan told CNBC. 

‘There is fuel in these markets yet, but now with the tanker truck driver shortage there is absolutely no way that stations can stay anywhere caught up with the increase in demand,’ he added.

The US has been suffering a nationwide shortage of professional truckers for some time, with many truckers approaching retirement and few younger workers willing to take up the difficult job.

A government map shows a mishmash of pipelines, petroleum ports and petroleum refineries. The Southeastern area now under biggest stress shows little in the way of pipelines or refineries, whereas the Gulf area, the Northeast and the Midwest are well-covered, so aren't as at-risk from fuel shortages at the moment

A government map shows a mishmash of pipelines, petroleum ports and petroleum refineries. The Southeastern area now under biggest stress shows little in the way of pipelines or refineries, whereas the Gulf area, the Northeast and the Midwest are well-covered, so aren't as at-risk from fuel shortages at the moment

A government map shows a mishmash of pipelines, petroleum ports and petroleum refineries. The Southeastern area now under biggest stress shows little in the way of pipelines or refineries, whereas the Gulf area, the Northeast and the Midwest are well-covered, so aren’t as at-risk from fuel shortages at the moment

The shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by a ransomware attack highlights a systemic vulnerability: Pipeline operators have no requirement to implement cyber defenses.

The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.

But the country’s 2.7 million miles of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators, experts said.

‘Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the ever-increasing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors,’ Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said.

Protections could include requirements for encryption, multifactor authentication, backup systems, personnel training and segmenting networks so access to the most sensitive elements can be restricted.

FERC’s authority to impose cyber standards on the electric grid came from a 2005 law but it does not extend to pipelines.

Colonial did not immediately respond to a query about whether cybersecurity standards should be mandatory.

The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group said it was talking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Energy Department and others to understand the threat and mitigate risk.

A man loads a 5 gallon gas tanks in his car after filling multiple of them up at a Wawa gas station in Tampa on Wednesday

A man loads a 5 gallon gas tanks in his car after filling multiple of them up at a Wawa gas station in Tampa on Wednesday

A man loads a 5 gallon gas tanks in his car after filling multiple of them up at a Wawa gas station in Tampa on Wednesday

A Racetrack station is seen out of service on Wednesday in Atlanta, where 60% of all stations are out of gasoline

A Racetrack station is seen out of service on Wednesday in Atlanta, where 60% of all stations are out of gasoline

A Racetrack station is seen out of service on Wednesday in Atlanta, where 60% of all stations are out of gasoline

Long lines of cars waiting for gas at a QT in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday as motorists search for fuel

Long lines of cars waiting for gas at a QT in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday as motorists search for fuel

Long lines of cars waiting for gas at a QT in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday as motorists search for fuel

A Marathon Gas Station in Atlanta warns that it is out of gas on Wednesday morning

A Marathon Gas Station in Atlanta warns that it is out of gas on Wednesday morning

A Marathon Gas Station in Atlanta warns that it is out of gas on Wednesday morning

Gulf Coast refiners that rely on the Colonial Pipeline to move fuel to market have cut processing. Total SE trimmed gasoline production at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant.

Citgo said it was moving products from its Lake Charles refinery and ‘exploring alternate supply methods into other impacted markets.’ 

Marathon Petroleum, another large refiner, said it was ‘making adjustments’ to its operations due to the pipeline shutdown.

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, urged calm. ‘We know that we have gasoline; we just have to get it to the right places,’ she said. 

Colonial Pipeline was attacked on Thursday, and closed from Friday until Monday.

It is beginning to be brought back on line, but the company – which provides 45 per cent of all fuel to the East Coast of the U.S. – warns that full service may not be resumed until the end of the week. 

American Airlines has been forced to add refuel stops to two long haul flights from its Charlotte, North Carolina hub as a likely effort to conserve fuel in areas where it could run short.  Normal service will resume on Thursday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary fuel transportation waiver to increase the supply of gas.  

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and transports 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, is the largest assault on US energy infrastructure in history and has sent shockwaves across the industry

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and transports 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, is the largest assault on US energy infrastructure in history and has sent shockwaves across the industry

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and transports 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply, is the largest assault on US energy infrastructure in history and has sent shockwaves across the industry

A resident of Tampa, Florida fills up gas tanks on Wednesday after a cyberattack crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, run by Colonial Pipeline

A resident of Tampa, Florida fills up gas tanks on Wednesday after a cyberattack crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, run by Colonial Pipeline

A resident of Tampa, Florida fills up gas tanks on Wednesday after a cyberattack crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, run by Colonial Pipeline

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denied any involvement. His spokesman said: ‘Russia has nothing to do with these hacker attacks, and had nothing to do with the previous hacker attacks. We categorically do not accept any accusations against us.’ 

Colonial, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, hasn’t said whether it has already paid or is negotiating a ransom with the hackers. 

The White House earlier declined to say whether companies that are hacked like Colonial should pay ransom to their attackers, saying instead that it was typically a ‘private sector decision’ – a move that has since been condemned by cybersecurity experts.

Meanwhile, as the shutdown entered its sixth day, a Maryland fuel distributor warned there would be ‘catastrophic’ shortages in the coming days given Colonial has only managed to restore some services in the wake of the hack. 

‘It’s going to be catastrophic,’ John Patrick, chief operating officer of Liberty Petroleum LLC, told Bloomberg

‘Governors should declare a state of emergency and ask people chasing tanker trucks to gas stations to stay home. School buses stay put.’   

The Colonial Pipeline, the largest in US, is responsible for transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel – 2.5 million barrels – daily through pipelines laid out between Texas and New Jersey.   

DarkSide claimed in a statement posted on the dark web on Monday that their only goal was to ‘make money’ and not cause chaos with their ransomware attack.   

‘We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics,’ the statement read. ‘Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.’

‘From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.’ 

The Russian embassy in the US has denied involvement, saying: ‘We categorically reject the baseless fabrications of individual journalists and reiterate that Russia does not conduct ‘malicious’ activity in the virtual space.’ 

Why will it take a WEEK to fix the Colonial Pipeline? America’s biggest fuel pipeline is still days away from resuming full operations after falling victim to DarkSide cyberattack 

By Emily Crane for DailyMail.com 

Colonial Pipeline says it is still days away from resuming full operations after falling victim to a cyberattack as questions being to mount over why it is taking an entire week to get the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline back in action. 

Gas prices have already spiked to a seven-year high and reports of gas shortages and panic buying are emerging up and down the East Coast with motorists lining up from Florida to Virginia for fuel.

But as the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to ‘substantially’ restore operations by the end of the week.

Colonial, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, announced last Friday it had halted operations after becoming the victim of a ransomware attack that it said had affected some of its systems.

Ever since abruptly shutting the 5,500 mile pipeline that runs from Texas to New Jersey, Colonial has only managed to restore some services and has given the vague timeline of when things will be back up and running. 

The timing of when its systems could be restored may be weighed down by multiple factors, including whether Colonial paid the ransom and, if so, when it was given the decryption key that could unscramble it.

A Colonial Pipeline employee is seen in a file photo. Sources told Bloomberg News that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial's network on Thursday before demanding a ransom

A Colonial Pipeline employee is seen in a file photo. Sources told Bloomberg News that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial's network on Thursday before demanding a ransom

A Colonial Pipeline employee is seen in a file photo. Sources told Bloomberg News that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday before demanding a ransom

Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data and paralyze victim networks before demanding large payments to decrypt it. 

Cyber experts say the process of decrypting can take several days.

Colonial has refused to say whether it has paid or is negotiating a ransom after the FBI confirmed DarkSide, a Russian hacking outfit made up of ransomware veterans, was responsible for the attack. 

How extensively its systems were infected would also affect how quickly Colonial can restore them.  

Colonial has only said the hack affected its IT systems and not those that actually control the pipeline. 

Sources previously told Bloomberg that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday before demanding a ransom.  

Analysts at Third Bridge have said the pipeline utilizes both common and custom technology systems, which could complicate efforts to bring the entire network back online. 

In a statement released on Monday, Colonial said it took some systems offline on May 7 in a bid to contain the threat after first learning of the cybersecurity attack.

Taking those systems offline resulted in temporarily halting all pipeline operations and affected Colonial’s IT system.

Colonial said it is currently ‘in the process of restoring’ its IT systems and was evaluating the product inventory in storage tanks at its facilities. 

As the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to 'substantially' restore operations by the end of the week

As the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to 'substantially' restore operations by the end of the week

As the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to ‘substantially’ restore operations by the end of the week

Biden administration officials have said that Colonial proactively took some of its systems offline to prevent the ransomware from migrating from business computer systems to those that control and operate the pipeline. 

‘The Colonial Pipeline operations team is developing a system restart plan,’ a Colonial spokesperson said on Monday. 

‘While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. 

‘We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.’  

The mounting questions over when the system will be restored comes as fuel distributors and refiners say Colonial has left them in the dark about what it to come. 

One Maryland fuel distributor warned there would be ‘catastrophic’ shortages in the coming days given Colonial has only managed to restore some services in the wake of the hack. 

DarkSide: The Russian hacking outfit behind the Colonial Pipeline attack is given free rein by the Kremlin to target Western countries 

The cyberextortion attack that forced the shutdown of America’s largest fuel pipeline was carried out by a criminal gang known as DarkSide that is believed to based out of Russia where they are given free rein to target Western countries.

DarkSide is made up of veteran cybercriminals but insists it is not political. Like many others, however, DarkSide seems to spare Russian, Kazakh and Ukrainian-speaking companies, which does suggest a link to Russia.

Ransomware rackets are now dominated by Russian-speaking cybercriminals who are shielded – and sometimes employed – by Russian intelligence agencies, according to US officials.

Cyber experts say Russia gives free rein to hackers who target the US and European countries.

DarkSide has already boasted that it has been paid millions of dollars in ransom from 80 companies across the US and Europe.

‘Whether they work for the state or not is increasingly irrelevant, given Russia’s obvious policy of harboring and tolerating cybercrime,’ Dmitri Alperovitch, a former CTO of CrowdStrike, told NBC of DarkSide’s recent hacking.

The FBI on Monday confirmed that DarkSide was responsible for the attack on Colonial Pipeline that has experts fearing widespread gas shortages and significant price hikes. The federal agency did not mention DarkSide’s ties to Russia.

The US last month slapped sanctions on Russia for malign activities including state-backed hacking. The Treasury Department said Russian intelligence has enabled ransomware attacks by cultivating and co-opting criminal hackers and giving them safe harbor.

DarkSide, which cultivates a Robin Hood image of stealing from corporations and giving a cut to charity, said in a statement posted on the dark web that their only goal was to ‘make money’ and not create problems for society.

‘We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics,’ the statement read. ‘Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.’

‘From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.’

Despite only emerging in August last year, DarkSide appears to be very organized, experts say.

Those who have tracked DarkSide said it appears to be composed of veteran cybercriminals who are focused on squeezing out as much money as they can from their targets.

‘They’re very new but they’re very organized,’ Lior Div, the chief executive of Boston-based security firm Cybereason, said. ‘It looks like someone who’s been there, done that.’

DarkSide is one of a number of increasingly professionalized groups of digital extortionists, with a mailing list, a press center and a victim hotline to help facilitate ransom payments.

Experts say DarkSide was likely composed of ransomware veterans and that it came out of nowhere in the middle of last year and immediately unleashed a digital crimewave.

DarkSide’s site on the dark web hints at their hackers’ past crimes with claims they previously made millions from extortion and that just because their software was new ‘that does not mean that we have no experience and we came from nowhere’.

The site also features a Hall of Shame-style gallery of leaked data from victims who haven’t paid up. It advertises stolen documents from more than 80 companies across the US and Europe.

One of the more recent victims featured on its list was Georgia-based rugmaker Dixie Group Inc, which publicly disclosed a digital shakedown attempt affecting ‘portions of its information technology systems’ last month.

DarkSide has previously targeted Enterprise rental cars, Canadian real estate firm Brookfield Residential and an Office Depot subsidiary called CompuCom.

The group has a supposed code of conduct intended to spin the group as reliable, if ruthless, business partners.

They have publicly stated that they prefer not to attack hospitals, schools, non-profits, and governments. They instead go after big organizations that can afford to pay large ransoms and claims to donates a portion of its take to charity.

The group has posted receipts from donations it claims it has made to US charities in the wake of ransom attacks.

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