Colonial Pipeline said it resumed operations Wednesday afternoon after a five-day outage triggered by a ransomware attack caused gas shortages and panic buying in East Coast states.
“After this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the operator of the 5,500-mile pipeline said on its website. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service outages during the startup period. Colonial will carry as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”
Colonial temporarily halted operations on Saturday after it determined it had been the victim of a ransomware attack. The pipeline runs through 11 states, from New Jersey to Texas.
The closure of a major fuel artery caused businesses and consumers to scramble. American Airlines has added temporary refueling stops to two long-haul flights from Charlotte, North Carolina, and Southwest Airlines has flown planes with extra fuel to airports, including Nashville International Airport.
Meanwhile, gas stations in some states sold up to three times their normal amount of gasoline, leading to price increases of 8 to 10 cents a gallon. Some stations are out of fuel, and others have limited purchases to 10 gallons or less.
While all indications are that the attack hit the IT portion of the company’s network and did not extend to the operational technology portion that controls pipeline operations, Colonial said Saturday it initiated the shutdown as a precaution.
Colonial Pipeline has said it is working with outside cybersecurity experts, law enforcement and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and the FBI. Company representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An external audit of Colonial Pipeline in 2018 found “appalling” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secure systems,” The Associated Press reported, citing an author of the report. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said Colonial Pipeline had no intention of paying the ransom. Other news organizations, which also rely on unnamed sources, later said Colonial paid a ransom of nearly $5 million.
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