U.S. Fuel Pipeline Provider Accused of Paying Nearly $5 Million in Ransom to Solve Hacking Crisis

On Thursday (May 13), several U.S. media outlets reported comments from sources that Colonial Pipeline had paid nearly $5 million to ransomware hackers in an attempt to restore its business. The news contradicts earlier reports that the company had no intention of giving in to the hackers and paying the ransom fee.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. fuel pipeline provider, was attacked by a hacker group called DarkSide last Friday, May 7, forcing it to shut down its operations, which led to fuel shortages and lines at gas stations on the East Coast. On Wednesday (May 12), the company announced it was restarting service, but it is expected to wait several days for its supply to resume.

U.S. media outlet Newsmax, citing people familiar with the matter, said the pipeline provider paid a large ransom in cryptocurrency within hours of the attack, and that U.S. government officials were informed of the situation. After receiving the payment, the hackers provided the operator with a decryption tool to restore its failed computer network.

The tool was so slow that the company continued to use its own backups to help restore the system, said a person familiar with the company’s work.

Both Colonial Pipeline and the NSC declined to issue comments.

Recently, media outlets, including The Washington Post, also quoted sources as saying the business was not prepared to give in to hackers.

But Anne Neuberger, deputy U.S. national security adviser, said Monday (May 10) that sometimes companies may have no choice but to pay a ransom, telling reporters, “We recognize that companies are often in a difficult position if their data is encrypted and they don’t have backups to recover it. “

For now, while fuel pipelayers are back in business, there are still many areas that are experiencing a lack of fuel as supplies are still taking time to recover. According to fuel supply tracker GasBuddy, Florida, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi had more gasoline shortages at stations early Thursday than they did Wednesday night.

Tom Kloza, founder of Oil Price Information Service, said the “flood” of gas station outages could come Thursday or Friday (May 14), despite the full restart of fuel lines.

“Friday is always the busiest day to buy gasoline,” he wrote in a tweet.

Patrick De Haan, an analyst with GasBuddy, tweeted that people in states with the worst shortages, such as North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, could experience up to 14 days of fuel shortage woes. He predicted that problems in other states would end sooner.

Nearly half of U.S. East Coast respondents said they experienced fuel shortages after suffering several days of fuel supply shutdowns.

In the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, 47 percent of East Coast residents said they experienced fuel shortages or price increases during the crisis. About 41 percent said they did not feel the impact. Some 54 percent said they lacked confidence that Washington would be able to prevent the next attack.