Pipeline Cyberattack is Causing Panic at the Gas Pump: Explained

By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

The cyberattack on the largest U.S. pipeline is still sending ripples across the economy because the Colonial Pipeline delivers about half the fuel used on the east coast. The FBI says the culprit behind the cyberattack is DarkSide.

So how does this impact you and the gasoline supply?

You may have noticed the price of gasoline has been rising, and even more so in the last week because for the cyberattack.

What is the Deal?

This is a security breach, plain and simple. Cyber criminals held ransom by taking over access to the computer system of the pipeline for ransom. Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down operations after hackers launched a ransomware attack on Friday.

The company, Colonial Pipeline, which handles about 45 percent of the fuel used on the East Coast, feeds diesel and gasoline to many states.

How Bad is the Impact?

Colonial ships 100 million gallons of gas per day, supplying stations up and down the East Coast, the impact has been dramatic in many states and stations are running out of fuel. These states were impacted the most and ran out of fuel:

  • North Carolina at 70 percent
  • Virginia at 53 percent
  • South Carolina at 49 percent
  • Georgia at 47 percent
  • Washington DC at 40 percent

We haven’t seen gas prices this high since 2014.

Are we heading back to the 1979 fuel shortage?

According to GasBuddy, here are the average gas prices across the country:

  • Nationwide:        $3.01
  • California:            $4.10
  • Illinois:                  $3.23
  • Georgia:                $2.90
  • Virginia:                $2.87
  • North Carolina: $2.86
  • Texas:                    $2.74 (typically the lowest prices in the country)

The Colonial Pipeline launched the restart of its operations Wednesday evening following a six-day shutdown caused by the ransomware attack, but the pipeline’s operators warned it will take several days for service to return to normal. However, there are other factors that are propping up prices, including the tanker shortage.

This Is What You Should NOT Do While Fuel Supplies Return to Normal

When gas supply gets low, panic gets high.

Do not panic, the colonial pipeline is now back online, don’t rush to fill up your tank, be patient as prices level out.

If you are going to buy extra fuel for whatever reason, NEVER store gasoline in your garage unless you have proper Gerry cans that are vented. Not every container will keep you and your family safe. Never use plastic bins or bags, this is a recipe for a fire or explosion. Remember, it’s the fumes that burn, not the liquid and proper storage is critical.

GasBuddy.com or its app has a fuel availability tracker. This tracker helps drivers in affected areas find fuel should stations run out. It will be several days before the fuel will be when back at gas stations, most likely at a higher price. We are still dealing with a trucker shortage and summer gas which will keep gasoline prices inflated until after the Memorial Day weekend.

The Bottom Line

Colonial Pipeline paid European hackers $5M in ransom just hours after the hack. Once the ransom was paid, an encrypted tool was used to bring the company back online.

Let’s hope they change the system to something more secure before the hackers come back for round two. If you pay the ransom, the bad guys will be back for more money.

Think about this. If they can hack the pipeline, they can hack the electric grid? Our critical infrastructure needs to be protected.

We just got a reminder to change our passwords more often and do other things to protect yourself, like getting a VPN.

If you have additional questions, put them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host.  A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.   

Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak. 

Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum, and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.  

Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.

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