Colonial Pipeline announced Friday that a ransomware attack forced it to temporarily suspend all pipeline operations.
The US government says it is helping a major pipeline operator restore service after a ransomware cyberattack took its network offline.
US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Sunday Washington was working to avoid more serious fuel disruptions and to help restart the Colonial Pipeline as soon as possible.
The company operates a network of pipelines that stretches more than 8,850 km from Texas to New Jersey.
“Everything is on deck right now,” Raimondo said during an interview on the CBS Face the Nation program.
“We are working closely with the company, state and local authorities to ensure that they are back to normal operations as quickly as possible and that there are no disruptions to supplies.”
Colonial Pipeline said in a statement late Friday that it was the victim of a “cybersecurity attack” and confirmed media reports a day later that ransomware was involved in the incident.
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks systems down by encrypting data and demanding payment in order to regain access. The malware has grown in popularity over the past five years.
“In response, we have proactively taken certain systems offline to contain the threat that has temporarily suspended all pipeline operations and affected some of our IT systems,” the company said.
The Colonial Pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products daily via its network and, according to its own information, transports 45 percent of the fuel supply on the east coast of the USA.
Fuel retail experts, including the American Automobile Association, said a multi-day outage could have a significant impact on regional fuel supplies, especially in the southeastern United States.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the cyber attack Saturday morning, the White House said, adding that the government was working to help the company get back to business and prevent disruptions.
Experts said gas prices are unlikely to be affected if normal operations resume in the next few days, but the incident should serve as a wake-up call for companies about the vulnerabilities they are facing.
David Kennedy, founder and chief security advisor at TrustedSec, said that once a ransomware attack was discovered, companies would have little time to completely rebuild their infrastructure or pay the ransom.
“Ransomware is absolutely out of control and one of the biggest threats we face as a nation,” Kennedy told The Associated Press. “The problem we face is that most organizations are poorly prepared for these threats.”