Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount has warned state officials that they could see fuel shortages stemming from a cyberattack on the pipeline by a gang of hackers.

The pipeline transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast but has been offline after it fell victim to a ransomware attack late last week.

The company plans to reopen by the end of the week though Blount, in a private meeting on Monday, said the company wouldn’t resume shipments until the ransomware had been removed.

Regardless, opening by the weekend, according to Bloomberg News, “may not come fast enough to avert immediate shortages in the U.S. Southeast.”

Fuel shortages have already been reported in parts of Florida and North Carolina.

Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina to “prepare for any potential motor vehicle fuel supply interruptions across the state and ensure motorists are able to have access to fuel.”

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Biden Administration Declines Advice To Colonial Pipeline On Paying Ransom

At a press briefing on Monday, the White House lamented the private sector’s level of control when it comes to critical infrastructure.

“This weekend’s events put the spotlight on the fact that our nation’s critical infrastructure is largely owned and operated by private-sector companies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“When those companies are attacked, they serve as the first line of defense, and we depend on the effectiveness of their defenses.”

Still, the administration committed to remaining hands-off when it came to advising the Colonial Pipeline on whether or not to pay ransom to the hackers in order to remedy the situation.

A reporter at the briefing asked if Colonial had already paid a ransom, noting “everyone is concerned about their gas prices” and are wondering “when this thing is going to be under control.”

“So, typically, that is a private-sector decision, and the administration has not offered further advice at this time,” Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies Anne Neuberger replied.

Officials from both Colonial and the White House have declined to say whether or not a ransom had already been paid.

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Biden Promised Renewed Focus On Cybersecurity

The administration, despite the warning from Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount, tried to downplay the threat of fuel shortages.

“Right now there is not a supply shortage,” Deputy National Security Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told reporters at the same briefing.

In December, then-President-elect Joe Biden blasted former President Trump for “downplaying the seriousness” of cybersecurity threats, in particular referencing the SolarWinds hack at the time.

“The Trump administration failed to prioritize cybersecurity,” Biden said addressing “Trump’s irrational downplaying of the seriousness of this [recent] attack.”

“Enough is enough,” he continued. “In an age when so much of our lives are conducted online cyberattacks must be treated as a serious threat by our leadership at the highest levels.”

Fox News indicates the fuel shortage threat could negatively impact gas prices which have already been on the rise.

“The attack on the Colonial Pipeline could exacerbate the upward pressure on prices if it is unresolved for a period of time,” they write.

The average national gas price in January according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration was $2.42. In April it had ballooned to $2.95.

 

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