Cyberattack on US pipeline is linked to criminal gang

NEW YORK (AP) – The cyberextortion attempt that has forced the shutdown of a vital United States (US) pipeline was carried out by a criminal gang known as DarkSide that cultivates a Robin Hood image of stealing from corporations and giving a cut to charity, two people close to the investigation said on Sunday.

The shutdown, meanwhile, stretched into its third day, with the Biden administration loosening regulations for the transport of petroleum products on highways as part of an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to avoid disruptions in the fuel supply.

Experts said that gasoline prices are unlikely to be affected if the pipeline is back to normal in the next few days but that the incident — the worst cyberattack to date on critical US infrastructure — should serve as a wake-up call to companies about the vulnerabilities they face.

The pipeline, operated by Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, carries gasoline and other fuel from Texas to the Northeast. It delivers roughly 45 per cent of fuel consumed on the East Coast, according to the company.

It was hit by what Colonial called a ransomware attack, in which hackers typically lock up computer systems by encrypting data, paralysing networks, and then demand a large ransom to unscramble it.

File photo shows vehicles near the Colonial Pipeline in Helena, Alabama. PHOTO: AP