Unprecedented Cyber Attack Forces Shutdown of America’s Largest Gas Pipeline

Following a cyber attack last weekend Colonial Pipeline has shut services of its 8,800 km pipeline, the largest gas network in America

The gate to Colonial Pipeline’s Pelham junction and tank farm in Pelham, Alabama, U.S., Credit: Getty images

The gate to Colonial Pipeline’s Pelham junction and tank farm in Pelham, Alabama, U.S., Credit: Getty images

Colonial Pipeline, which runs America’s largest gas and fuel pipeline has been closed for three days now following a major cyber attack on Friday. The company is working towards resuming services and so far, it has been able to resume operations in smaller lateral lines between major terminals and delivery points.

However, its four mainlines remain offline with no official communication regarding when services are expected to be restored fully. A spokesperson from Colonial Pipeline said: “We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.”

Colonial Pipeline operates a crucial network spanning close to 8,800 kilometres which transport close to 50% of fuel supplies to the East Coast. According to the company’s website, the company’s pipeline brings gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from refineries in the Gulf Coast to over 50 million people in southern and eastern America. Since the company has not released an official recovery timeline, judging the impact of the shutdown on fuel prices is difficult. The outage, caused by cyber attack, so far will likely generate a short-term spike in refined product prices. Jay Hatfield, founder and CEO of Infrastructure Capital Management in New York, said: “A temporary outage will likely drive already rising national retail gas prices over $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014.” However, industry experts fear that a longer shutdown could force the country to experience rapid fuel shortage.

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the cyber attack and with the FBI, the government is working closely with Colonial Pipeline to minimize damage and bring services back to normal as soon as possible. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo commented on the unprecedented attack by saying: “This is what businesses now have to worry about. Unfortunately, these sorts of attacks are becoming more frequent. They’re here to stay. It’s an all-hands-on decks effort right now. We’re working closely with the company, state and local officials to make sure that they get back up to normal operations as quickly as possible and there aren’t disruptions to supply.”

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