(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Brentwood School

The Colonial Pipeline Company crisis

“Your network has been locked! You need to pay $2,000,000 now, or 4,000,000 after doubled.”

This immensely nerve-wracking and frightening notification may seem unfamiliar and daunting, but this is not the case when it comes to the Colonial Pipeline Company, a major U.S. fuel pipeline.

On May 7, the company had no idea that the notification they received (similar to the one above) would be a mere start to their upcoming nightmare of a week. After receiving this notification, the pipeline was taken offline by Darkside, a cyber-criminal group.

According to BBC News, the criminal group lists all the data it steals then sends its victims the URL of a “personal leak page,” where the data is loaded up waiting to be published if the company does not pay before the deadline.

Furthermore, BBC News shed light on the actual hack that took place within the Colonial Pipeline Company. BBC shared that “the gang stole almost 100 gigabytes of data hostage, threatening to leak it onto the internet.” Quickly after the incident, the United States government took the situation into their own hands and the FBI (along with other government agencies) worked to resolve the issue, taking the cloud computing system with the stolen data offline.

According to Reuters, the pipeline plans not to pay the ransom proposed by Darkside and to instead work to resolve the situation and fix the crisis their company is facing at hand as swiftly as possible. The Pipeline plans to work with law enforcement to come up with a potential solution and method to respond to this unfortunate threat.

Not only is this criminal activity very disconcerting, but it has also caused some serious concern among fuel suppliers and the U.S. government, as so many suppliers rely upon the pipeline.

According to BBC News, the pipeline carries 2.5 million barrels a day, which is 45% of the East Coast’s supply of diesel, petrol and jet fuel. Furthermore, according to the American Automobile Association, prices for fuel at gas stations have risen six cents per gallon as the struggle to obtain oil continues.

The Morning Call illustrates the fact that this software siege is more than just an unfortunate situation for the company — it’s affecting the economy. According to The Morning Call, the national average for gas prices has risen to be the most expensive since October of 2014.

Cities such as Atlanta, Houston, Meridian, Greensboro, Charlotte, Spartanburg and Linden are all major delivery locations that the Colonial Pipeline Company visits on a frequent basis, according to a map provided by BBC

On Sunday, the United States issued emergency legislation as the situation first arose. President Joe Biden shared his own concern regarding the situation as an economy briefing at the White House Monday. Biden shared that he was being “personally briefed” daily on the pipeline crisis.

As prices for oil rise and the demand for oil increases, I can only hope that the pipeline situation resolves as soon as possible. The longer the pipeline remains offline, the larger the impact will be on the East Coast.