September 21, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on May 4, 2021 about the Covid-19 response and vaccination program.

Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden warned Americans Thursday of the temptation to panic buy fuel following a ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that has paralyzed gas distribution systems in the southeastern states.

Biden also warned fuel suppliers in the affected states not to disrupt customers.

“Don’t panic,” Biden said in a speech at the White House. “I know it can be extremely stressful to see plumbing at pumps or gas stations with no gas. But this is a temporary situation.”

“Don’t get more gasoline than you need in the next few days,” said the president. “Gasoline supplies are coming back online and panic buying will only slow the process down.”

BIden then admonished petrol stations: “Do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time.”

Colonial resumed operations Wednesday afternoon but said the delivery schedule will not be back to normal for a few days.

Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted Thursday morning that the Colonial Pipeline restart had “gone well overnight” and “this should mean things will return to normal by the end of the weekend”.

However, gas analyst Patrick De Haan predicted that the mid-Atlantic states could continue to experience bottlenecks at the pump for the next week as supply catches up with demand.

Biden’s remarks come a day after the president signed an executive order that includes major changes to state cybersecurity standards to strengthen the country’s cyber defenses in critical economic sectors.

The president’s order creates stricter reporting requirements for companies affected by cyberattacks like Colonial Pipeline, especially when the company interacts with government IT systems.

The regulation also calls on the federal government and the private sector to work together to combat “persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns”.

The recent moves by the Biden administration, according to the White House, represent a large-scale mobilization of the government to respond to the crisis that began when the Colonial Pipeline informed federal authorities last Friday that it was the target of a ransomware Attack.

The attack forced the company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline, cutting off nearly half of the fuel supply on the country’s east coast.

The attack on Colonial Pipeline was traced back to a hacking group called DarkSide, an organized group of hackers set up on the ransomware as a service business model. This means that the DarkSide hackers develop, market and sell ransomware hacking tools to other criminals who then carry out attacks.

DarkSide is believed to operate out of Russia, but the White House has said there is no evidence to date that the attack was state sponsored or directed by the Kremlin.

– CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.