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The Car Coach: Pipeline Cyberattack causing panic at the pump

Written By | May 14, 2021
car coach, pump, pipeline, colonial

The cyberattack on the largest U.S. pipeline is still sending ripples across the economy because the Colonial Pipeline delivers about half the fuel used on the east coast. The FBI says the culprit behind the cyberattack is DarkSide. But how does this impact you and the gasoline supply? You may have noticed the price of gasoline has been rising, and even more so in the last week because for the cyber attack.  (Colonial Pipeline Said to Pay Ransom to Hackers Who Caused Shutdown)

What is the deal?

This is a security breach. The cybercriminals are holding access to the computer system of the pipeline for ransom forcing Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline to shut down operations.  The company, which handles about 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast, feeds diesel and gasoline to many states.

How bad is the impact?

Colonial ships 100 million gallons of gas per day, supplying stations up and down the East Coast. The impact has been dramatic in many states and stations are running out of fuel.

These states were impacted the most, many running out of fuel:




70% North Carolina

53% Virginia

49% South Carolina

47% Georgia

40% of DC

We haven’t seen gas prices this high since 2014. Are we heading back to the 1979 fuel shortage?

Currently the average gas prices across the country: from GasBuddy

Nationwide $3.01

California $4.10

Illinois $3.23

Georgia $2.90

Virginia $2.87

North Carolina $2.86

Texas $2.74 (typically the lowest prices in the country)

The Colonial Pipeline launched the restart of its operations Wednesday evening following a six-day shutdown caused by the ransomware attack, but the pipeline’s operators warned it will take several days for service to return to normal. However, there are other factors that are propping up prices, including the tanker shortage.

What you should NOT do while fuel supplies return to normal.

When gas supply gets low, panic gets high. Do not panic, the colonial pipeline is now back online, don’t rush to fill up your tank, be patient as prices level out. If you are going to buy extra fuel for whatever reason, never store gasoline in your garage unless you have proper gas cans that are vented. Not every container will keep you and your family safe. Never use plastic bins or bags, this is a recipe for a fire or explosion. Remember, it is the fumes that burn, not the liquid, and proper storage is critical.

GasBuddy.com or the app has a fuel availability tracker. This tracker helps drivers in affected areas find fuel should stations run out. It will be several days before the fuel will be when backing at gas stations, most likely at a higher price. We are still dealing with a trucker shortage and summer gas which will keep gasoline prices inflated until after the memorial day weekend.

Here’s the bottom line? 

Colonial Pipeline paid European hackers $5M in ransom just hours after the hack. Once the ransom was paid, an encrypted tool was used to bring the company back online. Let’s hope they change the system to something more secure before the hackers come back for round two. If you pay the ransom, the bad guys will be back for more money.

Think about this. If they can hack the pipeline, they can hack the electric grid? Our critical infrastructure needs to be protected.

We just got a reminder to change our passwords more often and get a VPN. Try Express VPN and protect your computer from hackers too.

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Lauren Fix

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news and safety issues.