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Colonial Pipeline hack brings worries of pipeline security

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 8:19 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The east coast’s Colonial Pipeline, which was hacked and shut down, is now back up and operating after the company paid a $5 million ransom to the perpetrators.

But concerns over cybersecurity, gasoline supply, and potential future attacks on pipelines are still running rampant.

The concerns don’t stop on the east coast where the Colonial Pipeline lies.

This was apparent at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference that took place May 11-13 where questions over a hack like this was on everyone’s mind.

Oil and gas industry leaders from all over America gathered to discuss how well oil production is recovering, but the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline was looming overhead.

“I think it’s a terrorist attack. And this administration looking at it like, ‘well that’s just private companies.’ That’s crazy,” said Continental Resources founder Harold Hamm.

Energy Transfer, the company that operates the Dakota Access Pipeline, said they’ve already seen several hacking attempts to their pipeline. “It’s been attempted with us, but it’s been caught,” said Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren.

Warren said that’s why they have heightened security measures in place.

“We take it so seriously we have bulletproof glass in all of our control rooms. We have redundancy beyond imagine. And if someone were to get into the SCADA system, then that’s going to be a serious issue,” said Warren.

So this hack doesn’t mean pipeline operators are not prepared for them.

“They’re very aware. When you look at what happens globally, challenges, and terrorism threats and different things the pipelines are a target. And certainly that’s taken very seriously by the operators,” said North Dakota Pipeline Authority President Justin Kringstad.

In response, people across the east coast have been panic buying gasoline, leaving many gas pumps empty. “Certainly a wakeup call to the people on the east coast in terms of value of American energy and of gasoline and diesel fuel,” said North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness.

Average gas prices in the U.S. have jumped above three dollars per gallon for the first time since 2014, and have skyrocketed to nearly seven dollars in some east coast cities hit by shortages at the pump.

Although there’s concern more ransomware attacks could be underway, new reports show the criminal group responsible for the hacking is shutting down.

However, it’s always possible for groups like these to shut down only to pop up later under a different name.

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