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Cyber Criminal Gang Claims Responsibility for Pipeline Attack as East Coast Prepares for Fuel Shortages

A company that operates a major U.S. energy pipeline says it was forced to temporarily halt all pipeline operations following a cybersecurity attack.

 WASHINGTON – The cybercriminal gang accused of the attack on one of the country's largest pipelines that supply nearly half of all fuel to the East Coast is now claiming responsibility and asking for money.

The FBI has confirmed the Russia-based group known as Darkside developed the ransomware, which has now halted the pipeline for four days. 

"We are preparing for multiple possible contingencies and considering what additional steps may be useful to mitigate any potential disruptions to supply," Deputy National Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said in a Monday news conference. 

Darkside posted a statement saying it "never meant to create havoc" and that its goal "is to make money." The hackers though didn't say how much money they're seeking.  

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On CBN News' Faith Nation Monday, cybersecurity expert and author Amy Myers Jaffe called this is the largest cyber attack on major infrastructure in the United States.

"This is a very significant attack," explained Jaffe. "We're talking a major piece of energy infrastructure. I've been calling it the jugular of the U.S. gasoline system." 

Officials stress that the pipeline has not been damaged and according to the pipeline's owner, some manually operated smaller terminals are operating again but the main pipeline is not expected to be up and running for several more days. 

Already, Americans are paying for it. 

"It affects anyone that needs to drive a car to and from work, to and from school, to and from a store to get groceries," said Patrick De Haan, an analyst at Gasbuddy.com.

Experts warn the shutdown could spike gas prices already up to six cents a gallon in the last week.

Some gas stations in states like North Carolina, where the governor has declared a state of emergency, and Virginia are already out of fuel. 

Airlines are affected too. On Monday, American Airlines announced some non-stop flights from Charlotte, North Carolina will now make stops to get fuel where there's more supply. 

Meanwhile, President Biden said he would be speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

"So far, there is no evidence-based on, from our intelligence people, that Russia is involved," Biden told reporters Monday. "Although, there's evidence that the actors' ransomware is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this." 

The administration has made clear its concerns about the growth in ransomware, the impact on state and local governments, and the country's reliance on private energy companies and their defenses.

"Unfortunately, these sorts of attacks are becoming more frequent," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Sunday. "They're here to stay and we have to work in partnership with businesses to secure networks, to defend ourselves against these attacks." 

Congressional leaders point to broader concerns over the need to protect not only pipelines but the electric grid and communications and financial systems. 

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