Cyber Attack Paralyses US Main Fuel Pipeline and Drives Up Oil Price

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The Colonial Pipeline, the pipeline stretching from the Gulf of Mexico in the south of the US to the east coast for a distance of more than 8,850 kilometres, has been shut down following a cyber attack. Ransomware was used for this, says the operator.


The attack dates from Friday but was only confirmed on Sunday. According to Colonial Pipeline, several IT systems were proactively shut down after the incident “to contain the threat.” The operator notified the authorities and also engaged an external IT company.

Since the attack, the price of crude oil has risen slightly. A barrel of oil of the North Sea species Brent will become 36 cents more expensive to 68.64 dollars. The price of a barrel of US WTI oil is up 33 cents at $ 65.23.

A ransomware attack installs malicious software that can block a computer or encrypt files. The attack often happens to get a ransom. But according to Bloomberg news agency, the hackers also managed to steal data from the company. The hackers are said to be part of a gang that calls itself DarkSide and has stolen nearly a hundred gigabytes of data. They threatened to disclose this information to the company. They also demanded a ransom, but it is not clear how much.

The Colonial Pipeline transports, among other things, gasoline, diesel and heating oil at a rate of approximately 2.5 million barrels per day. This accounts for nearly half (45 percent) of the fuel used on the US East Coast by more than 50 million people. The US military is also an important customer.

The company says it is now working on a solution to keep the impact as small as possible and return to a standard transport normalisation. According to the New York Times newspaper, the impact is limited for the time being because fuel consumption is lower as a result of the corona pandemic.

Hackers are increasingly carrying out cyber attacks on companies and government infrastructure. In 2017, for example, WannaCry computers from the British health service and the German railways were shut down. The most successful attempt to hit critical infrastructure happened in Ukraine, where a Russian hacker caused a massive power outage in December 2015. In February, there was another attempt to manipulate drinking water in the US state of Florida. Last week there was a cyberattack on the Belgian government network Belnet.

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