ALL NEWS

US pipeline company halts operations after cyberattack

May 8, 2021, 12:26 PM
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2008 file photo traffic on I-95 passes oil storage tanks owned by the Colon...
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2008 file photo traffic on I-95 passes oil storage tanks owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company in Linden, N.J. 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/Mark Lennihan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. energy company says a cyberattack forced it to temporarily halt all operations on a major pipeline that delivers roughly 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.

Colonial Pipeline said the attack took place Friday and also affected some of its information technology systems. The company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries primarily located on the Gulf Coast through pipelines running from Texas to New Jersey.

The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company said it hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack and has also contacted law enforcement and federal agencies.

“Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue,” the company said in a late Friday statement. “At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.”

Oil analyst Andy Lipow said the impact of the attack on fuel supplies and prices depends on how long the pipeline is down. An outage of one or two days would be minimal, he said, but an outage of five or six days could causes shortages and price hikes, particularly in an area stretching from central Alabama to the Washington, D.C., area.

Lipow said a key concern about a lengthy delay would be the supply of jet fuel needed to keep major airports operating, like those in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The precise nature of the attack was unclear, including who launched it and what the motives were. A Colonial Pipeline spokeswoman declined to say whether the company had received a ransom demand, as is common in attacks from cyber criminal syndicates.

Ransomware scrambles a victim organization’s data with encryption. The criminals leave instructions on infected computers for how to negotiate ransom payments and, once paid, provide software decryption keys. While there have long been fears about U.S. adversaries disrupting American energy suppliers, ransomware attacks are much more common and have been soaring lately.

Mike Chapple, teaching professor of IT, analytics and operations at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and a former computer scientist with the National Security Agency, said systems that control pipelines should not be connected to the internet and vulnerable to cyber intrusions.

“The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls, or the right degree of security controls weren’t in place,” Chapple said.

Brian Bethune, a professor of applied economics at Boston College, also said the impact on consumer prices should be short-lived as long as the shutdown does not last for more than a week or two. “But it is an indication of how vulnerable our infrastructure is to these kinds of cyberattacks,” he said.

Bethune noted the shutdown is occurring at a time when energy prices have already been rising as the economy re-opens further as pandemic restrictions are lifted. According to the AAA auto club, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has increased by four cents since Monday to $2.94.

Colonial Pipeline said it transports more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily, through a pipeline system spanning more than 5,500 miles.
The FBI and the White House’s National Security Council did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The federal Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency referred questions about the incident to the company.

A hacker’s botched attempt to poison the water supply of a small Florida city raised alarms about how vulnerable the nation’s critical infrastructure may be to attacks by more sophisticated intruders.

Anne Neuberger, the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity and emerging technology, said in an interview with The Associated Press in April that the government was undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks. She said the goal was to ensure that control systems serving 50,000 or more Americans have the core technology to detect and block malicious cyber activity.

Since then, the White House has announced a 100-day initiative aimed at protecting the country’s electricity system from cyberattacks by encouraging owners and operators of power plants and electric utilities to improve their capabilities for identifying cyber threats to their networks. It includes concrete milestones for them to put technologies into use so they can spot and respond to intrusions in real time. The Justice Department has also announced a new task force dedicated to countering ransomware attacks in which data is seized by hackers who demand payment from victims in order to release it.
___
Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia. AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Businesses are back open in Sugar House after a four alarm fire in October, but fire officials don'...
Alejandro Lucero

Cause of Sugar House fire could remain unknown another month

The SLC Fire Department is closing in on a cause for the Sugar House fire, but one official said it could take another month to know.
18 hours ago
making way for The Point, a guard tower is knocked down as part of the old state prison's demolitio...
Aimee Cobabe

As the old state prison goes down, development of The Point begins

The Point will take about two decades for developers to finish, but leaders in the project are optimistic that the planned community will be worth the wait.
18 hours ago
A former American Fork soccer coach is under arrest and facing six felony counts of child sexual ab...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Former American Fork soccer coach arrested on charges of child sexual abuse

The suspect arrested on charges of child sexual abuse was reportedly a soccer coach for the UC Strikers and Utah FC junior teams, between 2000 and 2014, according to American Fork Police.
18 hours ago
Christine McVie, one of the members of Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 79....
Lisa Respers France

Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac dead at 79

A statement from McVie's family said she'd been hospitalized with a short illness, and that her family was with her when she died.
18 hours ago
two deer are pictured gazing up along the grass, research will take a deep dive into deer this seas...
Elizabeth Weiler

DWR conducting deer research and checkups via helicopter transport

SALT LAKE CITY — Deer are plentiful in the Beehive State. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said this time of year is prime time to conduct deer research. DWR biologists are taking on a new form of research. The organization plans to capture deer and transport them via helicopter to different staging areas across […]
18 hours ago
santa claus...
Kim Passoth

More Santa’s helpers needed in this first “normal” year since pandemic

Unlike his boss at the North Pole, stand-in Santa Kevin Peachy can’t be everywhere at once. More Santa's helpers are needed!
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
US pipeline company halts operations after cyberattack