By Donna King
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — If you’re seeing long lines at gas stations, you’re not alone. The Colonial Pipeline shut down this weekend, saying it was hit with a ransomware attack Friday, May 7. The pipeline supplies nearly half of the fuel for the eastern part of the country and may be largely down through the rest of the week.
“It reminds me of the ’70s, when there were shortages and certain days of the week when people were assigned ‘fuel days’” said Carol Brantford of Cary, waiting to fuel up at the Costco in Apex.
The station manager said the store normally sees between 2,000 and 2,500 cars a day, but by 3 p.m. Tuesday some 4,500 cars had gone through.
Around the capital area of North Carolina, plastic bags over gas pumps fluttered in the breeze, indicating that fuel was gone at many stations. Drivers posted pictures of lines and empty stations they passed.
The FBI issued a statement Monday saying that, “… the DarkSide ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks. We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.”
In an update, the Colonial Pipeline says it’s moving to manual overrides for the time being. “We can now report that Line 4, which runs from Greensboro to Woodbine, Maryland, is operating under manual control for a limited period of time while existing inventory is available,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
The pipeline runs about 5,500 miles from refineries in Texas, through the Southeast, through the Piedmont of North Carolina, and north to New Jersey. It serves as the primary fuel line for the state.
On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency, temporarily suspending motor vehicle fuel regulations.
“Today’s emergency declaration will help North Carolina prepare for any potential motor vehicle fuel supply interruptions across the state and ensure motorists are able to have access to fuel,” Cooper said.
Ransomware cyberattacks are ones in which hackers scramble key computer codes, blacking or encrypting data until the victim pays money to the hacker. DarkSide is reportedly a “hacker for hire” company that subcontracts the attacks for clients who pay anywhere from $200,000 to $20 million.
CNBC reported a statement from DarkSide claiming, “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” the statement said. “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.”
Apolitical or not, criticism over policy, slow response, and a lack of redundant systems is filling social media.
“The Colonial Pipeline outage demonstrates how susceptible our cybersecurity and infrastructure systems can be, if left unsecured,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on May 11. “We need more energy infrastructure — not less — to defend and protect our country from economic ransomware attacks. Defense must be a top priority.”
American Airlines announced Tuesday it’s adding stops into two long-distance flights out of Charlotte in response to the East Coast gas shortage.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and working around the clock to ensure that we have an adequate supply of fuel across our network,” American said in a statement.
“We just heard the news and thought we would get ahead of the game, but it looks like everyone else had the same idea. It’s scary, and a lot of people are panicking,” said Sherri from Apex.