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Knowns and unknowns concerning the hack at Colonial Pipeline By Reuters 

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Holding tanks are seen at Colonial Pipeline’s Linden Junction Tank Farm in Woodbridge, New Jersey, U.S. in an undated {photograph}. Colonial Pipeline/Handout through REUTERS.

By Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ransom-seeking hackers have damaged into Colonial Pipeline, prompting the corporate to close considered one of America’s main arteries for gasoline supply.

Here’s a take a look at what we all know, and what we do not, about probably the most disruptive digital shakedown efforts to hit a U.S. firm.


Alpharetta, Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline and the U.S. authorities have each blamed ransomware for the huge outage, pointing the finger at cybercriminal gangs who routinely maintain knowledge and laptop networks hostage in trade for digital forex funds.

There isn’t any official phrase on which group is believed to have carried out the intrusion – and attributing malicious exercise on-line will be extraordinarily tough – however a former U.S. official and three trade sources advised Reuters a gaggle dubbed “DarkSide” was among the many suspects. In that case, that will lay the duty on a brand new however skilled group of criminals believed to be working out of the previous Soviet republics.

Cybersecurity FireEye (NASDAQ:) is concerned with the incident response, in line with three trade sources.


Ransomware can deal catastrophic injury to a corporation’s community by locking away crucial knowledge and even wrecking computer systems past restore. However the impact on the precise nuts and bolts of power firms’ operations varies.

A damaging cyberattack on Saudi Aramco (SE:) in 2012 crippled the oil large’s laptop community however left manufacturing more-or-less unscathed. Against this, a newer ransomware incident at Norsk Hydro (OTC:) briefly pushed the aluminum maker to change away from automated manufacturing at its smelters.

Consultants say the severity of the Colonial case will rely upon whether or not the ransomware made its approach into the corporate’s operational expertise community, which interfaces with the pipeline itself. Earlier this yr, U.S. authorities officers introduced that an intrusion at an unnamed compression plant that spilled over into its operational expertise community pressured a two-day shut down of its complete pipeline.

Colonial has not given any public indication as to the attain of the ransomware outbreak, however Robert M. Lee, chief govt of cybersecurity agency Dragos, stated he believed Colonial’s operations community was shut down proactively “to ensure that nothing unfold into these methods.”

He stated that may hopefully translate to “a short lived outage versus one thing that will be extra sustained.”


U.S. authorities officers are working with Colonial to assist it recuperate whereas scrambling to keep away from extra extreme gasoline provide disruptions ought to the outage proceed.

Colonial’s pipeline community serves main U.S. airports, together with Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger visitors, and specialists say regional gasoline provides may very well be impacted if the pipeline stays shut.

“A one-to-two-day outage is known as a minor inconvenience,” stated Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. However by day 4 or 5, he stated, “we might see a a lot better widespread influence by giant areas all through the mid-Atlantic and the southeast.”

Whether or not the pipeline stays shut that lengthy in flip relies on how deeply the hackers penetrated Colonial’s community – and the way quickly cybersecurity specialists can pull them out.

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