U.S.

FBI confirms Russian hackers in ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline

The federal government is stepping in to aid the operator of a major U.S. pipeline system that shut down Friday after a ransomware attack by computer hackers from Russia.

The FBI confirmed Monday that DarkSide, a professional Russian criminal group, was responsible for the attack. The group itself said its goal was to make money, not cause chaos, Reuters reported.

The amount of money was not disclosed. 

The Colonial Pipeline transports gasoline and other fuel from Texas to the Northeast and supplies about 45% of fuel the East Coast uses for driving and flying. The company told Reuters it expected to “substantially” resume operations by the end of the week.

If it stayed closed, that could limit fuel availability and cause gasoline and jet fuel prices to rise as the economy recovers from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.97 Monday, up 1 cent from Sunday and 7 cents from a week ago, according to AAA. 

The Department of Transportation announced Monday that it was temporarily easing rules on truck transport of fuel, allowing drivers in 18 states to work more hours.

In a ransomware attack, hackers invade a company’s computer system, encrypt data and freeze operations, then demand payment to release control.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline has not released details but said the attack affected some of its information technology systems, according to The Associated Press. Those systems were under repair Sunday and Monday.

The hackers took more than 100 gigabytes of data from a cloud computing system, Reuters reported

Colonial said some of its lateral, or smaller pipelines between terminals and delivery stations, were put back into operation on Sunday.

Oil market analysts told the BBC that Texas refineries were storing a lot of fuel. Tennessee and Georgia would be the first states affected if the pipeline remains closed.

Founded in 1962, Colonial transports 2.5 million barrels of petroleum products a day, including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil and fuel for the U.S. military.

The pipeline system serves a number of major U.S. airports, including Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta, considered the nation’s busiest airport based on passenger traffic, Reuters reported.

Other airports include those in Baltimore-Washington; Nashville; and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina.

Cyberattacks and demands for ransomware have increased over the past few years. Attacks per month against government, manufacturing and other sites and breakdown per industry:

SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; Reuters; U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

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