On Friday 7 May, the largest fuel pipeline of the U.S.A that brings approximately 45 % of the U.S.A east coast’s gasoline and jet fuel from Texas to New York, announced that it had been hacked.

On 10 May the pipeline was shut down, but interestingly the spigot was not turned off by the hackers, or from a government response. It was shut down by the victim, the Colonial Pipeline Company, in order to contain the damage. The FBI have announced that the attack was caused by a criminal extortion ring called DarkSide, which specialises in ransomware. Belikely, according to some news reports, the FBI were also involved in the decision of closing the pipeline. Nevertheless, this large scale cyberattack on critical infrastructure clearly came with some societal impacts and affected the transportation sector as the attack is one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes reported. The decision of turning off the pipeline set off a series of dominoes including panic buying fuel at the gas stations. Further, the NY Times reported:

“A confidential assessment prepared by the Energy and Homeland Security Departments found that the country could only afford another three to five days with the Colonial pipeline shut down before buses and other mass transit would have to limit operations because of a lack of diesel fuel. Chemical factories and refinery operations would also shut down because there would be no way to distribute what they produced, the report said.”

However, the hackers’ goal was not to disrupt the economy by taking a pipeline offline but to hold corporate data for ransom. In a public statement on their website, DarkSide excuse them self, proclaiming:

“Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society”.

The pipeline operations were restarted on Wednesday 12 May, but the company added “it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal” and fully replenish supplies.

More interesting reading about DarkSide and that cybercrime is now a major industry, can be found here.

Written by Joakim Rosell