USA

Colonial Pipeline: 'We have returned the system to normal operations'

Colonial Pipeline officials said early Saturday morning they "have returned the system to normal operations" after the company was forced to shut down operations last week following one of the most disruptive cyberattacks in history.

The company, operator of the largest U.S. fuel pipeleine, shut down its entire operation last 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 began the process of restarting operations on Wednesday.

States that are now receiving product from Colonial Pipeline include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South and North Carolina, according to the company.

"Since this incident began, we have been clear that our focus was on the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system. That is what we have achieved through the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members," Colonial Pipeline tweeted on Saturday.

An array of government agencies including the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and Homeland Security responded to the attack alongside the FBI and the White House.

Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million to hackers who orchestrated the cyberattack, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. The FBI has historically discouraged, but not prohibited, American ransomware victims from paying hackers because it isn’t guaranteed to work and can encourage criminals to continue attacking others.

On Saturday, Colonial Pipeline said that maintaining the safety and integrity of their pipelines has always been a top priority for the company, "as reflected by the $1.1 billion we’ve invested in System Integrity and Preventive Maintenance in the past 5 years alone." They company also pointed out that they have "invested meaningfully in IT and cybersecurity."

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.

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