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Colonial announces pipeline restart, says normal service will take ‘several days’

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Colonial Pipeline, operator of the largest U.S. fuel pipeline, said Wednesday it is restarting operations after being shut down for five days due to a cyberattack.

The company shut down its entire operation Friday after its financial computer networks were infected by a Russia-tied hacker gang known as DarkSide, fearing that the hackers could spread to its industrial operations as well.

The shutdown led to widespread gasoline shortages and caused temporary price spikes. The U.S. saw the problem as serious enough to issue an emergency order that relaxed restrictions for drivers carrying fuel in affected states.

“Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations today at approximately 5 p.m. ET,” the company said in a statement on its website. “Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal.”

Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. energy secretary, tweeted that she had spoken to Colonial’s CEO about the restart.

The company hired Mandiant, an Alexandria, Virginia, cybersecurity firm, to deal with the incident.

In its statement, the company thanked the White House, FBI and various U.S. agencies for help in dealing with the attack.

DarkSide is one of a number of hacker gangs that have terrorized American organizations for several years, breaking into private networks and either holding files hostage or threatening to leak sensitive information unless they’re paid a ransom. Other ransomware gangs have attacked schools, hospitals and police departments in recent months.

There have been more than 100 confirmed ransomware attacks against American entities already in 2021, according to a survey provided to NBC News by Allan Liska, a ransomware analyst at the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. A study from the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft found that ransomware gangs incurred around $75 billion in costs around the world in 2020.

While such hackers are closely tracked by U.S. law enforcement, many live in Russia or other countries that don’t extradite their citizens, frustrating efforts to stop them. By attacking the U.S. gasoline supply, however, DarkSide in particular quickly caught the nation’s attention.

The group seemed to acknowledge it may have crossed a line Monday, writing in broken English on its blog, “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,” misspelling “government.”

In remarks Monday, President Joe Biden said it appeared the group operated in Russia, and though the attack was not directed by the Russian government, “they have some responsibility to deal with this.”




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