The Security Breach of 2021 that Drove America Crazy


Cars waiting in line for gas after the Colonial Pipeline got hacked. Photo by: Megan Varner/Getty.

On May 7, the Colonial Pipeline experienced a cyber attack in which a group known as the “Darkside” hacked into the pipeline’s malware and stole data. The Colonial Pipeline runs from Houston, Texas, all the way to Linden, N.J., stretching 5,500 miles.


Its headquarters sits in Alpharetta, Georgia, and is owned by Koch Industries, Royal Dutch Shell, KKR & Co., IFM Investors and CDPQ Colonial Partners. The pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels per day and provides 45% of oil on the east coast. It was shut down for 4 days which caused 10 million barrels of oil to be withheld and not transported, causing a “shortage.”


Darkside is known for their “Robin Hood” robbery where they steal from the rich and give part of their findings to the poor. The criminal organization is suspected to be based in Russia, but President Biden made it clear that there is no reason to believe these individuals are under orders from the government. After the attack, the organization made the FBI pay a 5 million dollar ransom. However, on May 14, the gang claimed to have lost control of some of their web servers and the ransom sum. Darksupp, Darkside’s leader, posted a statement saying “A few hours ago, we lost access to the public part of our infrastructure, namely: Blog. Payment server. DOS servers.” Mandiant Threat Intelligence, a subsidiary of FireEye, claimed that Darkside decided to shut down. 


With gas prices already rising since January of this year, the attack on the Colonial Pipeline caused America to panic. Last April gas was $1.93 per gallon and this April it was $2.94 per gallon. The event was frightening for many not only because of a “gas shortage,” but also because an important part of the USA’s economy was defenseless against the attack. This resulted in a repeat of history. The great toilet paper haul of 2020 was briefly reenacted with gas. People were hogging barrels of gas in fear that they would not be able to use their vehicles. In Washington, 80% of gas stations did not have gas and in Georgia and South Carolina, over 40%. The widespread panic on the east coast is more to blame for the shortage than the actual pipeline being shut down. Because of the rapid increase in prices, Georgia Governor, Brian Kempt, decided to take off taxes on motor vehicles (28.7 cents a gallon and a diesel tax of 32.2 cents a gallon) through Sunday in an attempt to balance the inflation of gas prices. 


Students at NFHS have jobs and need to get places. Many students have to pay for their gas and don’t make much money. The pipeline attack was hard for these students because they needed to drive to make money, then had to spend their money on inflated gas. Even though the pipeline operation is returning to normal, gas prices are not. Gas prices are usually about $2.00 in Georgia but right now near Atlanta, gas is around $3.50 per gallon. By the school, however, gas is $2.83 per gallon.


Fortunately, the pipeline reopened. Conditions seem to be turning back to normal and the pipeline reopened 4 days after the attack on May 12. The effects on gas and energy overall seem minimal and the country is already getting back up. In addition to this, Darkside has reportedly shut down after losing the 5 million dollar ransom given to them by the FBI. Things seem to be looking up as life on the east coast returns to normal.