The federal government issued a rare emergency declaration on Sunday after a cyberattack on a major U.S. pipeline choked the transportation of oil to the eastern U.S.
The Colonial Pipeline, responsible for the country’s largest fuel pipeline, shut down all its operations Friday after hackers broke into some of its networks. All four of its main lines remain offline.
The emergency declaration from the Department of Transportation aims to ramp up alternative transportation routes for oil and gas. It lifts regulations on drivers carrying fuel in 17 states across the South and eastern United States, as well as the District of Columbia, allowing them to drive between fuel distributors and local gas stations on more overtime hours and less sleep than federal restrictions normally allow. The U.S. is already dealing with a shortage of tanker truck drivers.
The emergency order extends through June 8, and can be renewed. Colonial has yet to declare a date it expects it will resume full operations.
In a statement Monday afternoon, the company indicated it was working to slowly resume operations and hopes to restore services by the end of the week.
“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a press release.
In a press briefing Monday, Homeland Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said that Colonial initially shut down its networks as a precautionary measure, and that while the hackers broke into networks devoted to the company’s business operations, it did not reach computers that control the physical infrastructure that transports gasoline and other fuel.
Industry experts have already warned that a prolonged shutdown of the pipeline could push gas prices higher and cause disruptions in eastern parts of the U.S.
The FBI confirmed Monday that the culprit is a strain of ransomware called DarkSide, believed to be operated by a Russian cybercrime gang referred to by the same name. Like many ransomware gangs, DarkSide makes money by hacking a victim’s network, encrypting their files so they can’t be accessed and threatening to publish them online if they’re not paid a hefty fee.
In a statement posted to its website, DarkSide echoed a sentiment common across ransomware gangs — that they’re an apolitical group, only interested in making money — but seemed to acknowledge that by hampering the fuel industry, they may have crossed a line with the United States that no ransomware gang has crossed before.
“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined goverment and look for other our motives,” the gang posted, misspelling “government.”
“Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”
The attack is the latest in a recent rush of unrelated ransomware attacks across the country. A different group recently broke into Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police…