Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack Makes Gas Demand Jump

Photo credit: MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Photo credit: MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
  • After the Colonial Pipeline oil company was hit by hackers Friday, shutting down a massive pipeline that supplies the U.S. East Coast, demand has spiked 20 to 40 percent in anticipation of shortages in the East and now the South.

  • The DOT has issued an emergency declaration for 17 states and D.C., which Colonial Pipeline said will help alleviate the disruptions. The EPA has also issued a fuel waiver of some requirements to allow gasoline to be distributed more freely in affected regions.

  • The FBI said it thinks a gang based in Russia or Eastern Europe launched the attack but did not say the Russian government is involved.

If you’re reading this on the East Coast and still drive a gasoline-powered car, you have probably already figured out that there’s a problem with the supply of gasoline. The biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S., around 5500 miles long, was shut down Friday after hackers targeted it, pausing the flow of almost half of the East Coast's fuel supply. The pipeline normally carries around three million barrels of fuel a day, and it might take until the end of this week for things to flow as normal. Meanwhile, CNN reported that demand for gasoline was up 20 percent in the U.S., and 40 percent in some southern states, on Monday compared with the previous week.

That’s the latest from Colonial Pipeline, the company that was hit by the hack last week. According to reports, the systems were not hacked to try and cause an oil spill or other direct damage, but instead to make money through a ransomware attack. Colonial Pipeline's online data has been held hostage by unknown actors until the company agrees to pay up or finds another way to get its system back online.


The company is trying to do just that. Colonial Pipeline's website is down—which the company said was unrelated to the ransomware attack—but in a statement posted to Reddit, the company said it "continues to dedicate vast resources to restoring pipeline operations quickly and safely." Some portions of the pipeline system were taken offline in response to the cybersecurity attack, the company said, and workers are now evaluating if these can be brought back online safely. Colonial Pipeline is owned by Royal Dutch Shell and Koch Industries, as well as foreign and domestic investment firms, the New York Times reported.

Bloomberg said a portion of the pipeline from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Baltimore was reopened for a limited time Monday. That allowed some East Coast markets to be reconnected to a "key supply hub." Colonial said its plan is to have its entire network "substantially back in service" by the weekend, Bloomberg said. While some gas stations in the South and East Coast have run out of fuel, the price of gas nationwide has not been affected.

In the meantime, state and federal governments are taking action. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Regional Emergency Declaration for 17 Eastern and Southern states and Washington, DC. that temporarily relaxes restrictions on how long drivers can work in a shift. Colonial Pipeline said this change “should help alleviate local supply disruptions and we thank our government partners for their assistance in resolving this matter.” In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp temporarily suspended that state's gas tax, so drivers can pay less for gas, if they can find it.

Reuters reported that the FBI has said it believes DarkSide, a criminal gang possibly located in Russia or Eastern Europe, is behind the ransomware attack, but the U.S. government has not publicly accused the Russian government of anything related to this hack. The Russian embassy in the U.S. denied Moscow had anything to do with the attack.

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