Top Pipeline System Shuts Down Amid Ransomware Attack

Colonial Pipeline Website.

A top fuel pipeline operator that carries refined gasoline and jet fuel from Texas up the East Coast to New York said on Saturday it was forced to shut down its 5,500 mile-long system after a cyber attack that involved ransomware.

Colonial Pipeline said in a statement late Friday that it had taken certain systems offline — a move that halted all pipeline operations in an effort to contain the attack on its computer networks. 

By Saturday afternoon the pipeline operator, which says it carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, reported that it had “since determined that this incident involves ransomware,” and that a third-party cybersecurity firm was launching an investigation into the matter.

The pipeline company said it was “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue,” and had contacted law enforcement and federal agencies but did not specify when its pipelines would be back up and running.

At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation,” the company said.

The Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a separate statement on Saturday that the shutdown “underscores the threat that ransomware poses to organizations regardless of size or sector.”

“We encourage every organization to take action to strengthen their cybersecurity posture to reduce their exposure to these types of threats,” CISA said.

Reports of the attack comes as the Biden administration continues to deal with its response to cyber vulnerabilities and intrusions. Last month, the White House announced it had sanctioned Russia over the massive SolarWinds breach that took place in the final year of the Trump administration.

The Energy Department had also announced last month a 100-day effort to strengthen cybersecurity in the nation’s power grid that would include identifying steps that could be undertaken by utility owners and operators to help detect and defend against cyberattacks.

“The United States faces a well-documented and increasing cyber threat from malicious actors seeking to disrupt the electricity Americans rely on to power our homes and businesses,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement announcing that effort last month.

The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the pipeline shutdown Saturday morning and the administration was working with the company to assess the attack and restore operations. 

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