Fuel shortage that started along the US east coast has now reached the country's capital. Several gas stations in Washington DC have been emptied as motorists lined up for panic buying in the aftermath of ransomware cyber attack on the country's largest gasoline pipeline, Colonial Pipeline.
The cyber attack and the consequent shutdown led to many motorists in the US rushing to stock up on gasoline (petrol) and diesel. On Friday, around 88% of gas stations in the capital were out of fuel while 45% were out in Virginia and 39% of Maryland stations were dry, as per tracking service GasBuddy.com. About 65% of stations were out of gas in North Carolina and nearly half were tapped out in Georgia and South Carolina.
The Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline system stretches from Texas to New Jersey and delivers about 45% of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast. After being shut down for five days, the pipeline had reopened last Wednesday, but restoring operations and running it on normal capacity could take several days. Many authorities in the US have warned against the dangers of hoarding fuel. “It’s like a frenzy," Barry Rieger, who owns a gas station in Burke, Virginia, told WJLA-TV.
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Multiple sources confirmed to the Associated Press that Colonial Pipeline had paid the criminals a ransom of nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency, around 75 bitcoins, for the software decryption key that was needed to unscramble their data network. The gas pipeline shutdown is one the most damaging cyberattacks in the US.
President Joe Biden has promised to take an aggressive action against DarkSide, the Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate responsible for the attack. He has also expressed his intention to speak directly with the Russian President Vladimir Putin about his government's harboring of ransomware criminals that have caused tens of billions of dollars in damages in the US in the past year.
(with inputs from the Associated Press)