More pain at the pump: AAA says don’t panic, cybersecurity expert talks pipeline attack

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Just when demand for fuel is on the rise – as more people hit the road and the economy recovers – a cyberattack has taken a major fuel pipeline off-line. 

The Colonial Pipeline was targeted by cybercriminals over the weekend, forcing Colonial to shut it down. Gas has already jumped to an average of over 3-dollars per gallon – about 6 cents extra in New York State. 

The Colonial Pipeline transports about 43% to 45% of the fuel for the East Coast, about 100 million gallons per day…that’s been stopped due to what experts are calling a ransomware attack.

But what is a ransomware attack, and how did it manage to force the shut down the pipeline? 

“They stole about, I think the report is 100 gigabytes worth of data, that they are holding ransom,” says Paul Robinson with IGI Cybersecurity.

Robinson says criminals hacked into systems relating to the infrastructure of the Colonial Pipeline, stealing vital information…but it’s not as simple as just paying the crooks off. The criminals, said to be operating out of Russia.

“Because you have to kind of rebuild your system,” he says adding that’s like re-doing all the locks to your home if someone steals your keys, and who knows how long that will take. This theft, he says will have a ripple effect on our everyday lives. 

“When gas prices go up, food costs go up because you have to ship the food. It’s this windfall of tragedy that takes place. When prices go up, our pockets are less. We have to be even smarter with the way we’re budgeting our funds,” says Robinson.

Payers at the pump, already feeling the punch to the pocketbook. 

“I’m not looking forward to almost four dollars again,” says mechanic Diana Pickett.

“It would be nice if prices would stay down,” says Mike Paris who recently bought a smaller fuel-efficient car.

“It’s going to impact a lot of people, especially a lot of lower-income people,” says realtor Nea Frost.

But April Engram with AAA saying not to panic yet. When it comes to fuel, “We have an ample supply in the US at the moment.” She adds, “Drivers in our Western and Central New York region, they should not feel the need to panic.”

But if this goes on too long, we could see summer prices soar. “Hopefully, the pipeline is remedied soon,” she says. AAA did say we’re also transitioning to ‘summer blend’ fuel which is more expensive than ‘winter blend’ fuel, also adding to the uptick we’re seeing here and across the US.

In a statement Monday from Colonial Pipeline they did say they are doing everything they can to restore pipeline operations quickly and safely. “Segments of our pipeline are being brought back online in a stepwise fashion, in compliance with relevant federal regulations and in close consultation with the Department of Energy, which is leading and coordinating the Federal Government’s response,” says the company.