A cyberattack forced the temporary shut down of one of the US’ largest pipelines Friday, highlighting already heightened concerns over the vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical infrastructure.
The operator, Colonial Pipeline, which transports more than 100 million gallons of gasoline and other fuel daily from Houston to the New York Harbor, according to its website, said it learned of the cyberattack on Friday, causing them to pause operations.
“In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems,” the company said in a statement.
Colonial said it engaged a third-party cybersecurity firm to launch an investigation into the “nature and scope of this incident” and also contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies. CNN has reached out to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for comment.
The attack comes amid rising concerns over the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in America’s critical infrastructure following recent incidents, and after the Biden administration last month launched an effort to beef up cybersecurity in the nation’s power grid, calling for industry leaders to install technologies that could thwart attacks on the electricity supply.
Cybersecurity has been a major focus following two alarming incidents — the SolarWinds intrusion campaign by alleged Russian hackers that compromised nine US agencies and dozens of private organizations, and the Chinese-linked hack of Microsoft Exchange server vulnerabilities that exposed tens of thousands of systems worldwide — as well as a high-profile, though unsuccessful, cyberattack in Florida earlier this year that sought to compromise a water treatment plant.
Colonial said Friday that it’s “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue.”
“At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline,” the company said.
Colonial, founded in 1962, says it transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast. The pipeline system that spans more than 5,500 miles has two main lines: one for gasoline and another for things like diesel and jet fuel.
The company also had to suspend its pipeline in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast. The pipeline shut down for 11 days in September 2016 due to an underground leak and in November 2016 due to a deadly fire breaking out along a section of the pipeline in Alabama.