US gas prices head for highest in years as hacked key pipeline shut

US gas prices head for highest in years as hacked key pipeline shut
FILE PHOTO: Holding tanks are seen at Colonial Pipeline's Linden Junction Tank Farm in Woodbridge, New Jersey, U.S. in an undated photograph. Colonial Pipeline/Handout via REUTERS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.//File Photo

According to reports, average US pump prices increased to $2.967 per gallon and an increase of 3 more cents would make the national average the most expensive since November 2014.

A ransomware attack shut down a gasoline and diesel pipeline running 5,500 miles along the entire US East Coast on Friday.

The outage is expected to last a full week or more, but Colonial said Monday it will “substantially” restore operational service by the end of this week.

The shutdown has caused panic buying amid gas shortage on the East Coast, with American drivers seeking to fill up tanks as a precaution as gasoline demand picks up ahead of summer vacation season amid the COVID-19 crisis.

US traders have now scrambled to import fuel from Europe as the Biden administration responded by invoking emergency powers to enable truckers to transport more fuel.

The states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, which heavily rely on the shutdown line for fuel, suffered acute shortages and spikes in prices at the pump during previous shutdowns.

But experts urged drivers not to panic buy.

“Motorists are well-advised not to strain the system by filling up … they may make the problem much more severe,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at fuel tracking firm GasBuddy.

Ransomware attackers typically encrypt a company’s data, locking the firm out of its own systems until a ransom is paid.

It is still unclear whether the Colonial Pipeline Company pays its hackers.

Biden says ‘no evidence’ Russia responsible for pipeline cyberattack

US President Joe Biden, on Monday, rejected claims of Russian involvement and blamed “transnational criminals” for cyberattack.

Rumors surfaced of Russian involvement after some US media outlets took the opportunity to link the hackers to Russia or even its government.

Biden said he will discuss the cyberattack with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet face to face.

The US president has previously said he will meet his Russian counterpart sometime in June, possibly during his visit to Europe for the G7 summit that month.

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