News, Culture & Society

Fight breaks out at NC gas pump amid Russian cyberattack fuel crisis

Fights are breaking out at the gas pump, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline, and the Biden administration is urging motorists not to deepen the crisis with unnecessary panic buying.

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station.

A witness said a woman tried to cut the line for gas, and then screamed obscenities and spit on a man who refused to let her cut in. The man jumped out of his vehicle, spit on the woman in return, and began grappling with her, video shows. 

A small gas station chain, Parker’s, which serves Georgia and South Carolina, announced on Facebook on Tuesday that customers would be limited to $50 worth of gas. 

North Carolina has been the state hardest-hit by fuel shortages after the key Colonial Pipeline was disabled by a ransomware attack, but the impact of the crisis is rippling across the country, with the national average price of gas exceeding $3 for the first time since 2014. 

Officials at Colonial will decide on Wednesday whether it is safe to resume operations, and Biden administration officials have privately admonished the pipeline operator for its weak security protocols and lack of preparation, according to CNN.  

The fuel crunch comes as a double-whammy to U.S. consumers, as new data on Wednesday showed inflation hitting its highest level in 12 years in April. With nearly 70 percent of all retail goods distributed by truck, the fuel crisis is also threatening supply chains across the impacted region.

In metro Atlanta, nearly 60 percent of all gas stations are dry, 71 percent of stations in Charlotte are offline, and across the state of North Carolina nearly a quarter of all stations have no gas, said GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan on Wednesday.  

A witness said a woman tried to cut the line for gas, and then screamed obscenities and spit on a man who refused to let her in

Motorists in Knightdale, North Carolina, on the outskirts of Raleigh, traded blows on Tuesday as frustrations boiled over in a long line for gas at a Marathon station

Long lines of cars wait for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline

Long lines of cars wait for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the southern Atlantic seaboard deepens after a Russian-linked cyberattack on a key oil pipeline

It comes on a day of fast-moving developments in the fuel crisis, with:

  • The average national gasoline price rising above $3.00 a gallon on Wednesday, the highest since 2014
  • In metro Raleigh, 72% of gas stations running dry, in Charlotte 71%, and in metro Atlanta 60%
  • Colonial Pipeline saying it will decide today whether it is safe to resume pipeline operations
  • Supply chain bracing for Memorial Day weekend with more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles
  • Biden administration urging motorists not to deepen the crisis with unnecessary panic buying
  • U.S. Energy Secretary officials considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary
  • Shortages spreading to the Florida panhandle as well as Washington DC and Baltimore
  • States of Emergency in effect in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia  

The ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline last week halted 2.5 million barrels per day of fuel shipments in the most disruptive cyberattack on U.S. energy infrastructure ever. 

US consumer prices jump the most in 12 years as inflation rises

U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy pushed against supply constraints, which could fuel financial market fears of a lengthy period of higher inflation.

The report from the Labor Department on Wednesday also showed a strong building up of underlying price pressures. 

Demand is being driven by nearly $6 trillion in government relief since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States in March 2020 and the vaccination of more than a third of the population.

The consumer price index jumped 0.8 percent last month, the largest gain since June 2009. 

In the 12 months through April, the CPI shot up 4.2%. That was the largest gain since September 2008 and followed a 2.6% increase in March. 

The FBI has confirmed that the DarkSide ransomware group is behind the attack, and the criminal gang is believed to be based in Eastern Europe or Russia and operate with the tacit approval of the Russian government. 

A cybersecurity source tells DailyMail.com that the group scans targets and does not attack them if their systems use the Russian language. 

Russia’s Embassy in the United States rejected speculation that Moscow was behind the attack. President Joe Biden on Monday claimed there was no evidence so far that Russia was responsible. 

It is unknown how much money the hackers are seeking, and Colonial has not commented on whether it would pay. 

The pipeline stretches 5,500 miles from U.S. Gulf Coast oil refineries to consumers in Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.

The pipeline’s private operator manually opened portions of the line to release needed supplies in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas. It has accepted 2 million barrels of fuel to begin a restart that would ‘substantially’ restore operation by week’s end, the company said.

The supply crunch, amid panic buying by motorists, has brought long lines and high prices at gas stations ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of this month, which traditionally marks the start of the peak summer driving season.

The AAA expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day weekend, up 60 percent from last year, which was the lowest since AAA began keeping records in 2000. 

De Haan, the GasBuddy analyst, said on Wednesday morning that there were only slight fuel shortages at the wholesale level, suggesting that the main issue was finding enough trucks to distribute gasoline to stations.

S&P’s Oil Price Information Service put the number of service stations encountering shortages at more than 1,000.

‘A lot of that is because they’re selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,’ S&P analyst Tom Kloza said.

The pipeline runs from the Texas Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan area, with the states most dependent on it including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, Kloza said.

To ease shortages, the White House is considering temporarily waiving a law that says ships delivering products between US ports must be built and manned by Americans.

The Transportation Department also is relaxing some workforce requirements and enlisting railroads to deliver fuel inland, while the Environmental Protection Agency has lifted some fuel quality requirements on an emergency basis.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said officials are considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary. 

Secretary Granholm also warned service station owners: ‘We will have no tolerance for price gouging.’

Long lines form for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the South

Long lines form for gas at a Costco in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, as a gasoline shortage across the South

A huge line forms for gasoline at Costco on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday. As the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered into its fifth day, efforts are under way to stave off potential fuel shortages

A huge line forms for gasoline at Costco on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday. As the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered into its fifth day, efforts are under way to stave off potential fuel shortages

A sign reading "Out of Fuel" is taped to the window at an Exxon Gas Station in Lynchburg, Virginia on Tuesday

A sign reading ‘Out of Fuel’ is taped to the window at an Exxon Gas Station in Lynchburg, Virginia on Tuesday

Drivers wait in a long line to fill up their vehicles at a Kroger supermarket gas station in Decatur, Georgia on Tuesday. The FBI confirmed that Darkside ransomware is responsible for the attack that compromised the Colonial Pipeline

Drivers wait in a long line to fill up their vehicles at a Kroger supermarket gas station in Decatur, Georgia on Tuesday. The FBI confirmed that Darkside ransomware is responsible for the attack that compromised the Colonial Pipeline

A gas pump in Greenville, South Carolina warns of shortages as the fuel crisis deepens across the Southeast

A gas pump in Greenville, South Carolina warns of shortages as the fuel crisis deepens across the Southeast

On Tuesday, the governors of Florida, Virginia and Georgia joined North Carolina in declaring states of emergency in a bid to protect fuel supplies, with some gas pumps already dry in Atlanta and other cities.    

The Colonial Pipeline delivers about 45 percent of the fuel used on the US East Coast, and the Southeast is particularly vulnerable because it has fewer refineries and pipelines to deliver fuel, compared to the Northeast, which is less at risk. 

The Southeast is also less equipped to quickly import large quantities of gasoline from other countries, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The average national gasoline price rose to above $3.00 a gallon on Wednesday, the highest since 2014, the American Automobile Association said. 

The fuel shortage has caused frustration for drivers across the South, sending motorists on desperate hunts for stations that still have gas.

‘This place is dead closed,’ said Charles Staples, a 31-year-old banker, after circling rows of shut fuel pumps in his Volvo at an Atlanta station. ‘I heard about the thing, but I just thought they’d be long lines or something.’

In Raleigh, the last few stores with gas were those along major thoroughfares, said Todd Sloan, a general contractor. ‘Those that have fuel have very long lines,’ he said. 

On Wednesday the shortages began spreading to the Florida panhandle, Washington DC, and Baltimore.

In Pensacola, Florida, 73 percent of stations had no gas, while in DC 8 percent were dry and in Baltimore 7 percent, according to De Haan.  

A government map shows a mishmash of pipelines, petroleum ports and petroleum refineries. The Southeastern area now under biggest stress shows little in the way of pipelines or refineries, whereas the Gulf area, the Northeast and the Midwest are well-covered, so aren't as at-risk from fuel shortages at the moment

A government map shows a mishmash of pipelines, petroleum ports and petroleum refineries. The Southeastern area now under biggest stress shows little in the way of pipelines or refineries, whereas the Gulf area, the Northeast and the Midwest are well-covered, so aren’t as at-risk from fuel shortages at the moment

A Racetrack station is seen out of service on Wednesday in Atlanta, where 60% of all stations are out of gasoline

A Racetrack station is seen out of service on Wednesday in Atlanta, where 60% of all stations are out of gasoline

Long lines of cars waiting for gas at a QT in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday as motorists search for fuel

Long lines of cars waiting for gas at a QT in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday as motorists search for fuel

A Marathon Gas Station in Atlanta warns that it is out of gas on Wednesday morning

A Marathon Gas Station in Atlanta warns that it is out of gas on Wednesday morning

Gulf Coast refiners that rely on the Colonial Pipeline to move fuel to market have cut processing. Total SE trimmed gasoline production at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant.

Citgo said it was moving products from its Lake Charles refinery and “exploring alternate supply methods into other impacted markets.” Marathon Petroleum, another large refiner, said it was “making adjustments” to its operations due to the pipeline shutdown.

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, urged calm. 

‘We know that we have gasoline; we just have to get it to the right places,’ she said. 

Colonial Pipeline was attacked on Thursday, and closed from Friday until Monday.

It is beginning to be brought back on line, but the company – which provides 45 per cent of all fuel to the East Coast of the U.S. – warns that full service may not be resumed until the end of the week. 

American Airlines has been forced to add refuel stops to two long haul flights from its Charlotte, North Carolina hub as a likely effort to conserve fuel in areas where it could run short

‘We’re seeing a gas run,’ said Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis. 

‘Now we’re going to see more dramatic [effects] as people run to the stations and run them dry.’ 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary fuel transportation waiver to increase the supply of gas.  

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and transports 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, is the largest assault on US energy infrastructure in history and has sent shockwaves across the industry

The attack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and transports 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply, is the largest assault on US energy infrastructure in history and has sent shockwaves across the industry

Drivers in Lynchburg, Virginia rushed to fill up their tanks last night as more than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel

Drivers in Lynchburg, Virginia rushed to fill up their tanks last night as more than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denied any involvement. His spokesman said: ‘Russia has nothing to do with these hacker attacks, and had nothing to do with the previous hacker attacks. We categorically do not accept any accusations against us.’ 

Colonial, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, hasn’t said whether it has already paid or is negotiating a ransom with the hackers. 

The White House earlier declined to say whether companies that are hacked like Colonial should pay ransom to their attackers, saying instead that it was typically a ‘private sector decision’ – a move that has since been condemned by cybersecurity experts.

Meanwhile, as the shutdown entered its fifth day, a Maryland fuel distributor warned there would be ‘catastrophic’ shortages in the coming days given Colonial has only managed to restore some services in the wake of the hack. 

‘It’s going to be catastrophic,’ John Patrick, chief operating officer of Liberty Petroleum LLC, told Bloomberg. 

‘Governors should declare a state of emergency and ask people chasing tanker trucks to gas stations to stay home. School buses stay put.’  

Fears of a looming shortage have already prompted panic buying with gas stations in various cities already running out of fuel or restricting sales.

Colonial said it was working to 'substantially' resume operations by the end of this week but reports of gas shortages are already emerging up and down the East Coast, Pictured above is a gas station in Atlanta

Colonial said it was working to ‘substantially’ resume operations by the end of this week but reports of gas shortages are already emerging up and down the East Coast, Pictured above is a gas station in Atlanta

The American Automobile Association is predicting that gas prices will only surge as a result of the shutdown after the national gas price average jumped six cents to $2.9. Pictured above is a gas station in Atlanta on Monday

The pipeline, the largest in US, is responsible for transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel – 2.5 million barrels – daily through pipelines laid out between Texas and New Jersey.  

Airlines flying out of Philadelphia International Airport are burning through jet-fuel reserves and the airport has enough to last ‘a couple of weeks,’ a spokeswoman said.  

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the major hub for Delta Air Lines, said it is looking at other suppliers of fuel but that operations have not been affected. 

DarkSide claimed in a statement posted on the dark web on Monday that their only goal was to ‘make money’ and not cause chaos with their ransomware attack.   

‘We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics,’ the statement read. ‘Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.’

‘From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.’

Despite saying they want to avoid chaos, experts have warned that the shutdown of Colonial last Friday could cause extraordinary disruption and result in a spike in gas prices the longer the pipeline remains down. 

The Russian embassy in the US has denied involvement, saying: ‘We categorically reject the baseless fabrications of individual journalists and reiterate that Russia does not conduct ‘malicious’ activity in the virtual space.’ 

Why will it take a WEEK to fix the Colonial Pipeline? America’s biggest fuel pipeline is still days away from resuming full operations after falling victim to DarkSide cyberattack 

By Emily Crane for DailyMail.com 

Colonial Pipeline says it is still days away from resuming full operations after falling victim to a cyberattack as questions being to mount over why it is taking an entire week to get the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline back in action. 

Gas prices have already spiked to a seven-year high and reports of gas shortages and panic buying are emerging up and down the East Coast with motorists lining up from Florida to Virginia for fuel.

But as the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to ‘substantially’ restore operations by the end of the week.

Colonial, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, announced last Friday it had halted operations after becoming the victim of a ransomware attack that it said had affected some of its systems.

Ever since abruptly shutting the 5,500 mile pipeline that runs from Texas to New Jersey, Colonial has only managed to restore some services and has given the vague timeline of when things will be back up and running. 

The timing of when its systems could be restored may be weighed down by multiple factors, including whether Colonial paid the ransom and, if so, when it was given the decryption key that could unscramble it.

A Colonial Pipeline employee is seen in a file photo. Sources told Bloomberg News that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial's network on Thursday before demanding a ransom

A Colonial Pipeline employee is seen in a file photo. Sources told Bloomberg News that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday before demanding a ransom

Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data and paralyze victim networks before demanding large payments to decrypt it. 

Cyber experts say the process of decrypting can take several days.

Colonial has refused to say whether it has paid or is negotiating a ransom after the FBI confirmed DarkSide, a Russian hacking outfit made up of ransomware veterans, was responsible for the attack. 

How extensively its systems were infected would also affect how quickly Colonial can restore them.  

Colonial has only said the hack affected its IT systems and not those that actually control the pipeline. 

Sources previously told Bloomberg that hackers stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday before demanding a ransom.  

Analysts at Third Bridge have said the pipeline utilizes both common and custom technology systems, which could complicate efforts to bring the entire network back online. 

In a statement released on Monday, Colonial said it took some systems offline on May 7 in a bid to contain the threat after first learning of the cybersecurity attack.

Taking those systems offline resulted in temporarily halting all pipeline operations and affected Colonial’s IT system.

Colonial said it is currently ‘in the process of restoring’ its IT systems and was evaluating the product inventory in storage tanks at its facilities. 

As the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to 'substantially' restore operations by the end of the week

As the shutdown nears its sixth day, it is still unclear why it is taking so long for Colonial to return to business as usual after insisting it would try to ‘substantially’ restore operations by the end of the week

Biden administration officials have said that Colonial proactively took some of its systems offline to prevent the ransomware from migrating from business computer systems to those that control and operate the pipeline. 

‘The Colonial Pipeline operations team is developing a system restart plan,’ a Colonial spokesperson said on Monday. 

‘While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. 

‘We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.’  

The mounting questions over when the system will be restored comes as fuel distributors and refiners say Colonial has left them in the dark about what it to come. 

One Maryland fuel distributor warned there would be ‘catastrophic’ shortages in the coming days given Colonial has only managed to restore some services in the wake of the hack. 

DarkSide: The Russian hacking outfit behind the Colonial Pipeline attack is given free rein by the Kremlin to target Western countries 

The cyberextortion attack that forced the shutdown of America’s largest fuel pipeline was carried out by a criminal gang known as DarkSide that is believed to based out of Russia where they are given free rein to target Western countries.

DarkSide is made up of veteran cybercriminals but insists it is not political. Like many others, however, DarkSide seems to spare Russian, Kazakh and Ukrainian-speaking companies, which does suggest a link to Russia.

Ransomware rackets are now dominated by Russian-speaking cybercriminals who are shielded – and sometimes employed – by Russian intelligence agencies, according to US officials.

Cyber experts say Russia gives free rein to hackers who target the US and European countries.

DarkSide has already boasted that it has been paid millions of dollars in ransom from 80 companies across the US and Europe.

‘Whether they work for the state or not is increasingly irrelevant, given Russia’s obvious policy of harboring and tolerating cybercrime,’ Dmitri Alperovitch, a former CTO of CrowdStrike, told NBC of DarkSide’s recent hacking.

The FBI on Monday confirmed that DarkSide was responsible for the attack on Colonial Pipeline that has experts fearing widespread gas shortages and significant price hikes. The federal agency did not mention DarkSide’s ties to Russia.

The US last month slapped sanctions on Russia for malign activities including state-backed hacking. The Treasury Department said Russian intelligence has enabled ransomware attacks by cultivating and co-opting criminal hackers and giving them safe harbor.

DarkSide, which cultivates a Robin Hood image of stealing from corporations and giving a cut to charity, said in a statement posted on the dark web that their only goal was to ‘make money’ and not create problems for society.

‘We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics,’ the statement read. ‘Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.’

‘From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.’

Despite only emerging in August last year, DarkSide appears to be very organized, experts say.

Those who have tracked DarkSide said it appears to be composed of veteran cybercriminals who are focused on squeezing out as much money as they can from their targets.

‘They’re very new but they’re very organized,’ Lior Div, the chief executive of Boston-based security firm Cybereason, said. ‘It looks like someone who’s been there, done that.’

DarkSide is one of a number of increasingly professionalized groups of digital extortionists, with a mailing list, a press center and a victim hotline to help facilitate ransom payments.

Experts say DarkSide was likely composed of ransomware veterans and that it came out of nowhere in the middle of last year and immediately unleashed a digital crimewave.

DarkSide’s site on the dark web hints at their hackers’ past crimes with claims they previously made millions from extortion and that just because their software was new ‘that does not mean that we have no experience and we came from nowhere’.

The site also features a Hall of Shame-style gallery of leaked data from victims who haven’t paid up. It advertises stolen documents from more than 80 companies across the US and Europe.

One of the more recent victims featured on its list was Georgia-based rugmaker Dixie Group Inc, which publicly disclosed a digital shakedown attempt affecting ‘portions of its information technology systems’ last month.

DarkSide has previously targeted Enterprise rental cars, Canadian real estate firm Brookfield Residential and an Office Depot subsidiary called CompuCom.

The group has a supposed code of conduct intended to spin the group as reliable, if ruthless, business partners.

They have publicly stated that they prefer not to attack hospitals, schools, non-profits, and governments. They instead go after big organizations that can afford to pay large ransoms and claims to donates a portion of its take to charity.

The group has posted receipts from donations it claims it has made to US charities in the wake of ransom attacks.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk