Malware, ransomware, and viruses are extremely annoying, menacing, and insidious attacks on our digital lives. They can disrupt communication and cause damage to computer systems, often resulting in disrupted services and huge expenditures for repairs, but rarely do they cause shortages of needed commodities. 2021 marked a banner year for these malicious hacks when a particularly sophisticated attack affected the Colonial Pipeline, an oil delivery pipeline system that serves the southeastern portion of the United States.
Tech Target explains that the Colonial Pipeline moves oil from the Gulf of Mexico to refineries on the east coast through 5,500 miles of pipeline. The disruption of this supply affects not only individual drivers, but also airlines, trucking companies, and even the supply of home heating oil. After this attack happened, President Biden declared a state of emergency. A hacker group known as DarkSide gained access to the pipeline’s computer systems due to a compromised password. The ransomware was then installed and encrypted the files, demanding a ransom of 75 Bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key. Colonial paid the ransom and got their systems back online within a couple of days.
The hack caused panic buying throughout the southeast and caused long lines to form at gas stations in several states. The FBI was brought in to investigate and managed to recover about 63 bitcoin, valued at $2.4 million at the time.