Saturday, June 12

Colonial Pipeline resumes operations after ransomware prompted closure


Colonial Pipeline said it restarted operations on Wednesday afternoon after a five-day outage brought on by a ransomware attack caused gasoline shortages and panic buying in East Coast states.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the operator of the 5,500-mile pipeline said on its website. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”

Colonial temporarily halted operations on Saturday, after determining that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. The pipeline runs through 11 states, from New Jersey to Texas.

The closure of a major fuel artery sent businesses and consumers scrambling. American Airlines added temporary refueling stops to two long-haul flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Southwest Airlines flew planes with extra fuel into airports including Nashville International Airport.

Filling stations in some states, meanwhile, were selling up to three times their normal amount of gasoline, leading to price hikes of 8 to 10 cents a gallon. Some stations have run out of fuel, and others have limited purchases to 10 gallons or less.

While all indications are that the attack hit the IT portion of the company’s network and didn’t extend to the operational technology portion that controls pipeline operations, Colonial said on Saturday that it initiated the shutdown as a precautionary measure.

Colonial Pipeline has said it’s working with third-party cybersecurity experts, law enforcement, and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and FBI. Company representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

An outside audit of Colonial Pipeline in 2018 found “atrocious” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secured systems,” The Associated Press reported, citing an author of the report. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that Colonial Pipeline had no plans to pay the ransom.

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