Fuel tanks are seen at the Linden Junction Tank Farm of the Colonial Pipeline in Woodbridge, New Jersey on May 10, 2021.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Monday his administration was ready to take further steps as the energy sector grapples with a colossal cyberattack on one of the largest fuel pipelines in the country.
On Friday, the Colonial Pipeline ceased operations and notified federal authorities that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack.
The attack, carried out by the criminal cyber group DarkSide, forced the company to shut down about 5,500 miles of pipeline, cutting off almost half of the fuel supply on the east coast of the country. Ransomware attacks are malware that encrypt files on a device or network and cause the system to become inoperable. Criminals behind such cyber attacks usually demand a ransom in return for releasing data.
The Department of Energy leads the federal government’s response in coordination with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. A FireEye Mandiant spokeswoman confirmed to CNBC that the US cybersecurity company is working with Colonial Pipeline following the incident.
Biden said he has received regular information on the matter since the attack that struck the carotid artery of the American pipeline system. The president said his government had no information to support claims that Moscow directed the ransomware attack. He added that he would continue to discuss the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“So far there is no evidence from our intelligence officials that Russia is involved, although there is evidence that the actor’s ransomware is in Russia. They have a certain responsibility to deal with it,” said Biden of the White House.
The Kremlin has previously denied claims that it launched cyberattacks against the United States.
President Joe Biden discusses the US economy as Vice President Kamala Harris stands by in the East Room of the White House in Washington, USA on May 10, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
On the previous Monday, White House national security officials described the attack as financially motivated. However, Biden administration officials would not say whether Colonial Pipeline would agree to pay the ransom.
“Usually this is a private sector decision,” Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor on cyber and emerging technologies, told White House reporters when asked about the ransom payment.
“We recognize that cyber attack victims often face a very difficult situation and often only have to weigh the cost-benefit ratio when they have no other choice but to pay a ransom. Colonial is a private company, and we will postpone information about your decision. ” about paying a ransom to them, “said Neuberger.
Anne Neuberg, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, speaks about the Colonial Pipeline failure following a cyber attack during the daily press conference at the White House in Washington, USA, on May 10, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
She added that the FBI had previously warned victims of ransomware attacks that paying a ransom could encourage further malicious activity.
Colonial Pipeline did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
On Monday before, the DarkSide group had described its actions as “apolitical” in a Cybereason statement to CNBC.
“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, we do not have to be tied to a defined government and look for our motives,” wrote the group.
“Our goal is to make money and not create problems for society. Starting today, we are introducing moderation and reviewing every company that our partners want to encrypt in order to avoid social consequences in the future,” added the statement.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the Department of Defense is monitoring the country’s fuel supplies amid concerns that the Colonial Pipeline shutdown could lead to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel shortages. Kirby said there are currently no known shortages in the U.S. military.
Deputy National Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told White House reporters that the government had forecast no fuel shortages.
Colonial Pipeline wrote in a statement Monday afternoon that it hopes to return service by the end of the week.
“Federal government measures to grant temporary duty relief to motorists and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s entire footprint should help reduce local disruptions to supplies, and we thank our government partners for their assistance in resolving this issue “added the statement.
The attack on the Colonial Pipeline comes as the Biden administration is working to pass a $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan aimed at partially addressing America’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities.
“Unfortunately, these types of attacks are becoming more common. They are here to stay. And we have to work with companies to secure networks in order to defend ourselves,” Trade Secretary Gina Marie Raimondo told the CBS Sunday program “Face the Nation.” “. “
“Right now it’s handcrafted. And we’re working closely with the company, the state and local authorities to make sure they get back to normal operations as quickly as possible and that there are no disruptions.” on offer, “she said, adding that infrastructure investments are a top priority for management.