Colonial reportedly paid nearly $5 million ransom to bring pipeline computers back online

Colonial Pipeline storage tanks are seen in Woodbridge, N.J., Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Colonial Pipeline storage tanks are seen in Woodbridge, N.J., Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

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(NEXSTAR) – The company struck by a ransom attack paid nearly $5 million in ransom funds in the form of cryptocurrency, according to Bloomberg.

Media outlets had reported Wednesday that Colonial Pipeline Co. would not pay ransom after a cyberattack by hackers locked up computer systems, but sources told Bloomberg the ransom was paid within hours of the attack. The hackers did not take control of the pipeline’s operations, but Colonial shut it down to contain the damage.

Bloomberg reports that the hackers provided a decryption tool allowing Colonial to restore the disabled network after the payment was made.

After restarting operations Wednesday, Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline said in a Thursday update that gasoline deliveries were underway in all of its markets. It will take “several days” for things to return to normal, and some areas may experience “intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period,” the company said.

About 70% of North Carolina’s gas stations were still without fuel Thursday amid panic-buying and about half the stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia were tapped out, reported. Washington, D.C., was among the hardest-hit locations, with 73% of stations out, the site’s tracking service showed.

The Northeast has seen fewer shortages since those states get more of their gas supplies from ocean tankers and other sources. The Colonial Pipeline delivers about 45% of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast, but there were no gasoline shortages, according to government officials and energy analysts, just delays in delivering the fuel from Gulf Coast refineries.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning out,” Richard Joswick, global head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, said.

Gas stations should be back to normal next week, though, if the pipeline restart goes as planned and consumers are convinced that they no longer need to panic-buy fuel, Joswick said. He estimated that full recovery for the East and Gulf coasts would take at least a couple of weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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