A major pipeline used to deliver gasoline to the eastern U.S. has been shutdown by hackers, leading to higher gas prices and decreased availability in some areas of Virginia. The Colonial Pipeline was targeted by a ransomware cyber attack on Friday, and the company took some systems offline in response, leading to the pipeline shutdown.
AAA Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs Manager Martha Meade said, “Just how much or how long these effects will last depends on how long the pipeline remains down. A few days means minor impact, but down for a longer period means a much larger impact.”
Meade said gas prices went up three cents Monday night, and the increase is likely to continue.
“Virginia one of the states most likely to see limited fuel availability and higher gas prices with the pipeline shutdown that runs from Texas to New York and delivers 45 percent of all fuel to the east Coast,” Meade added.
She said that the U.S. has strong gasoline supplies, but the shutdown is impacting delivery to terminals and gas stations. In response to the shutdown, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan issued an emergency fuel waiver on Tuesday. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also issued an emergency exemption to some transportation regulations.
“The Government has temporarily relaxed regulations on tanker truck drivers try to help ease the strain,” Meade said. “While that will help, it will not enough to resolve the entire issue. Complicating that effort, is an industry shortage of fuel truck drivers, which has already caused delivery delays and low fuel availability in some markets in the last six weeks.”
Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, allowing state agencies to issue their own waivers. In a press release, Northam said, “This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation.”
Colonial Pipeline’s website was down intermittently throughout Tuesday, making it unclear if the company had published any updates on the shutdown. On Twitter, the company said the outage was not caused by the cyber attack. In a press release published Tuesday, the company said it is working with experts, law enforcement, and federal agencies to restore operations.
“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said on Monday evening. “We can now report that Line 4, which runs from Greensboro, N.C., to Woodbine, Md., is operating under manual control for a limited period of time while existing inventory is available. As previously announced, while our main lines continue to be offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational as well.”
Meade is warning consumers not to rush out and fill their tanks. She provided a list of tips to conserve fuel:
- Consolidate trips and avoid high traffic times of the day.
- Use your most fuel efficient vehicle
- Remove heavy items from your car
- If you have a car top carrier and aren’t using it, remove it from the vehicle.
- Minimize use of air conditioning
- Park in the shake, use a windshield shade. This will help keep the car cooler and you’re less likely to need air conditioning.
- Get your engine tuned up.
- Replace air filters
- Be sure tires are properly inflated.
- Stick to the speed limit.
- Avoid jackrabbit starts
“While panic buying is being seen in response to the situation, AAA urges against panic buying,” Meade said. “Panic buying will only make things worse. Wait until your vehicle is at a quarter of a tank to refill.”
Who is Behind the Attack?
“Like many other ransomware variants, DarkSide follows the double extortion trend, which means the threat actors not only encrypt the user’s data, but first exfiltrate the data and threaten to make it public if the ransom demand is not paid. This technique effectively renders the strategy of backing up data as a precaution against a ransomware attack moot,” explains security blog Cybereason.
According to Cybereason, the gang has a reputation for being professional and organized. They have an affiliate program, a phone number, and a help desk, and are estimated to have potentially made millions of dollars.
Cybereason says the gang appears to target companies in English-speaking countries while avoiding former Soviet-bloc regions. On Monday, President Joe Biden said there was no evidence that Russia or any other country sponsored the attack, and on Tuesday a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was not behind the attacks, according to U.S. News. and World Report. Still, Biden said he was going to meet with the Russian president.
“They have some responsibility to deal with this,” he said, according to U.S. News and World Report.
On Monday, the gang published a statement on their dark web website. According to a screenshot from Cybereason, the gang said, “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for other our motives. Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check with each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”
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