Colonial Pipeline ‘paid $5million ransom to DarkSide Russian hackers hours after attack’ that sparked gas crisis

THE Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid nearly $5million in ransom to the DarkSide Russian hackers following the attack that sparked the gas crisis.

The company paid the extortionate amount in untraceable cryptocurrency within just hours of the devastating hack, Bloomberg reported.

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A source told the outlet that US government officials are aware that the payment was made.

When the cash was received, the hackers reportedly gave the operator a decrypting tool to restore the network.

However, due to the slowness of the tool, the company continued to use its own backup, according to the source.

On Thursday, the pipeline – which carries 100million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel – said it had begun supplying some fuel to most regions along its 5,500 mile route.

It will expand to areas including Baltimore by mid-day, it said.

The pipeline resumed computer-controlled pumping late Wednesday after adding safety measures.

The shutdown caused gasoline shortages and emergency declarations from Virginia to Florida, led two refineries to curb production, and had airlines reshuffling some refueling operations.

The pipeline's restart should bring supplies to some hard-hit areas as soon as Thursday, said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

She added that the fuel market should return to normal by the end of the weekend.

"Relief is coming," added Jeanette McGee, a spokeswoman for motor travel group AAA.

Motorists' tempers frayed as panic buying led stations to run out even where supplies were available.

On Thursday about 70 percent of gas stations in North Carolina were without fuel, while around 50 percent of stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia had outages, tracking firm GasBuddy said.

The average national gasoline price rose above $3.00 a gallon, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said, and prices in some areas jumped as much as 11 cents in a day.

Even as the pipeline resumes pumping, it will take time to replenish stocks. Gasoline inventories in the Northeast likely will fall to five-year lows this week, said Richard Joswick, an analyst with S&P Global Platts.

As FBI cybersleuths dug into an attack that paralyzed a large part of the US energy infrastructure, the group believed to be responsible said it was publishing data from breaches at three other companies, including an Illinois technology firm.

Colonial has a type of insurance that typically covers ransom payments, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

To stem fuel shortages, four states and federal regulators relaxed fuel driver restrictions to speed deliveries of fresh supplies.

The US also issued a waiver to an undisclosed shipper allowing it to transport gasoline and diesel from the US Gulf coast to East Coast ports on foreign-flagged vessels.

The US restricts deliveries between domestic ports to US-built and crewed vessels.

Gulf Coast refiners that move fuel to market on the Colonial Pipeline had cut processing as an alternative pipeline filled to capacity last weekend.

Total SE trimmed gasoline production at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant.

Airlines began refueling planes at their destinations, instead of usual departure points.

On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian said more fuel would be available "hopefully by the end of the week and as long as those predictions come true, hopefully we'll be OK."

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