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FBI names pipeline cyberattackers as company promises return

AP PHOTO A warning sign is posted along the path of the Colonial Pipeline in Garnet Valley, Pa., Monday. Gasoline futures are ticking higher following a cyberextortion attempt on the Colonial Pipeline, a vital U.S. pipeline that carries fuel from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.

WASHINGTON — Hit by a cyberattack, the operator of a major U.S. fuel pipeline said Monday it hopes to have services mostly restored by the end of the week as the FBI and administration officials identified the culprits as a gang of criminal hackers.

Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, halted operations last week after revealing a ransomware attack that it said had affected some of its systems. On Monday, U.S. officials sought to soothe concerns about price spikes or damage to the economy by stressing that the fuel supply had so far not been disrupted, and the company said it was working toward “substantially restoring operational service” by the weekend.

Nonetheless, the attack underscored the vulnerabilities of the nation’s energy sector and other critical industries whose infrastructure is largely privately owned. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data, paralyzing victim networks, and demand large payments to decrypt it.

The Colonial attack was a potent reminder of the real-world implications of the burgeoning threat. Even as the Biden administration works to confront organized hacking campaigns sponsored by foreign governments, it must still contend with difficult-to-prevent attacks from cybercriminals.

“We need to invest to safeguard our critical infrastructure,” President Joe Biden said Monday. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the attack “tells you how utterly vulnerable we are” to cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure.

The attack came as the administration works on an executive order aimed at bolstering cybersecurity defenses.

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