Colonial Pipeline said Friday that a ransomware attack had forced it to temporarily halt all pipeline operations.
The U.S. government says it is helping a major pipeline operator restore service a cyber attack associated with ransomware it has forced its network offline.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Sunday that Washington is working to prevent serious disruptions to fuel supplies and restart the Colonial Pipeline as soon as possible.
The company runs a pipeline network that stretches more than 8,850km (5,500 miles) from Texas to New Jersey.
“It’s a back-up effort right now,” Raimondo said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation program.
“We are working closely with the company, state and local officials to ensure that they return to normal operations as soon as possible and that there is no disruption in supply.”
The Colonial Pipeline said in a statement on Friday that it had been the victim of a “cybersecurity attack” and a day later, the media confirmed that there was ransomware in the incident.
Ransomware is a type of malware designed to block systems, encrypting data and requiring payment to restore access. Malware has been growing in popularity over the last five years.
“In the face of this, we have proactively taken some offline systems to contain the offline threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations and affected some of our IT systems,” the company said.
The Colonial Pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels a day of gasoline, diesel, aircraft fuel and other refined products across the network, and says it transports 45% of the U.S. east coast’s fuel supply.
Including the American Automobile Association, experts on retail fuels said the length of the interruptions of a few days could have a significant impact on the region’s fuel supply, especially in the southeastern United States.
The White House said it had been informed of the cyberattack by President Joe Biden on Saturday morning, adding that the government was working to help restore the company’s operations and prevent supply disruptions.
Experts say the price of gas is unlikely to be affected if they resume normal operations in the next few days, but that the event should be a wake-up call for companies to face the vulnerabilities they face.
David Kennedy, the founding and chief security adviser at TrustedSec, said after finding a rescue attack, companies have few resources to completely rebuild their infrastructure or pay for the rescue.
“Ransomware is completely under control and is one of the biggest threats we have as a nation,” Kennedy told The Associated Press news agency. “The problem we have before us is that most companies are not sufficiently prepared to deal with these threats.”