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Colonial Pipeline Hackers Cut ‘Aorta’ For Fuel Between Texas And The East Coast

Colonial Pipeline holding tanks in Alabama.
chapstickaddict /Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Colonial Pipeline holding tanks in Alabama.

From Texas Standard:

The recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, and the subsequent and unnecessary panic-buying of gasoline, has led to gas shortages across the southeastern United States.

Loren Steffy, writer at large for Texas Monthly, says the Colonial Pipeline is like an “aorta” for that part of the country when it comes to gasoline supply. The pipeline stretches from Houston all the way to New Jersey, and supplies about 45% of the fuel for cities along the Eastern Seaboard.

“That’s sort of like saying, you know, why did shutting down my aorta cause a heart attack? I mean, this is really the major pipeline that supplies the East Coast,” Steffy said.

There is enough gas supply, he said. It just has to be transported by truck until the pipeline comes back online. Transporting gas by truck takes longer. But Steffy says gas stations in the Southeast could begin to return to normal starting this weekend.

Highlights from this segment:

– The hack is believed to have originated in Russia, though Steffy says so far there is no evidence that the Russian government was behind the attack.

– Hackers look for vulnerabilities that may be less obvious to the average person. Steffy says oil and gas industry leaders have known for years that their infrastructure could be a target. Now he hopes they’ll take the threat more seriously and begin “strengthening their defenses.”

– Colonial had said it would not pay the ransom. But Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the company paid a $5 million ransom in “untraceable cryptocurrency” shortly after the attack.

– Texans likely won’t be directly affected by the pipeline shutdown. But it has led to a slowing of production at some Gulf oil refineries since they don’t have a pipeline through which to transport their product.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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