Cyber-attack disables major US fuel pipeline network

The US government scrambled yesterday to get gasoline, diesel and jet fuel moving from refineries by truck to the east coast after the company operating the country’s biggest fuel pipeline network was disabled by a cyber-attack, highlighting the risk posed by hackers to critical infrastructure.

Colonial Pipeline Company was hit with a ransomware attack on Friday, 7 May, leading to the shutting down of all four of its main lines, which carry some 2.5 million barrels of refined petroleum products a day to airports and filling stations. Colonial Pipeline carries some 45% of refined fuel consumed on the east coast of the US.

In attempt to head off shortages and price hikes, the US Department of Transportation yesterday waived restrictions on the hours tanker drivers in 18 states can work.

Experts told media the attack was carried out by a professional cybercriminal group called DarkSide.

Colonial brought in cybersecurity experts and has been working with law enforcement and the Department of Energy, which is leading the federal government response.

Yesterday it said its four main lines were still offline and that it was working on a "system restart plan". 

Last year a report for the Department of energy warned that the oil and natural gas sector was vulnerable to cyber-attack owing to the large number of differing regulatory bodies, standards and best-practice recommendations on cyber-security. 

Analyst John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital in New York, told CNBC: "It appears that it was a ransomware attack, rather than a state actor, but it highlights the significant software vulnerability across the industry."

Image: The attack raises the prospect of a spike in gasoline prices (Donny Jiang/Unsplash)

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