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Oil panic in the US after Russian hackers handicap biggest pipeline – FBI alarms of ‘DarkSide’ threat

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The cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, which supplies almost half the fuel gobbled up along the US East Coast, is one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes ever alarmed.

The threat is still being assessed – but the closing will inevitably cut fuel availability, push up prices and force refiners to cut production because they have no way to supply the gas.

The privately owned company said yesterday it was working flat out to restart in phases with the aim of “substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week”.

The FBI has blamed this cyberattack to DarkSide, a group thought to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

Its ransomware targets computers which do not use keyboards in the languages of former Soviet republics.

Marty Edwards, VP of OT Security at US-based cybersecurity company Tenable, told Express.co.uk:

Cyberattacks are a real and present danger to critical infrastructure around the world and, by extension, every single consumer.

If reports are accurate, the Colonial Pipeline incident has all of the markings of a ransomware attack that began in the IT environment and, out of precaution, forced the operator to shut down operations.

Ransomware has been a favored attack vector of cybercriminals because of its effectiveness and return-on-investment. That’s precisely why bad actors have recently set their sights on critical infrastructure.

Mr. Edwards further added that:

Shutting down operational technology (OT) environments can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, which forces providers to outweigh the costs.

We should not underestimate these groups. Many of them now have help desks, technical support, payroll processing and subcontractors.

They are essentially full-fledged criminal corporations operating in the digital world.

While it’s unknown how this attack played out, it’s yet another reminder of the increasing threats to critical infrastructure we all rely on.

A statement issued by the group yesterday read:

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

The statement did not specifically mention Colonial Pipeline, which is 5,500 miles in length, starting in Houston, Texas, and finishing in New York, by name.

President Joe Biden on Monday said there was no evidence thus far that Russia’s government was involved, but stressed there was evidence that the culprits’ ransomware was in Russia.

The Biden administration is continually assessing the impact of the Colonial Pipeline incident on fuel supply for the East Coast, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement also issued yesterday.

She added:

We are monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and are evaluating every action the Administration can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible.

A statement issued by the Russian embassy via Facebook, said:

The Embassy took note of the attempts of some media to accuse Russia of a cyber-attack on Colonial Pipeline.

We categorically reject the baseless fabrications of individual journalists and reiterate that Russia does not conduct ‘malicious’ activity in the virtual space.”

Gas stations in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee have already seen some panic buying, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

The American Automobile Association said the national average gasoline price climbed to $2.96 a gallon and could climb to its highest level since 2014.

In Georgia, trucking company owner Marcus Blash worried because his business cannot store fuel on site to hedge against price surges.

He said:

We pay at the pump. It hasn’t hit us yet, but this is going to hurt big time.

Image Credit: Getty

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