Colonial Pipeline shutdown could impact millions of consumers, expert warns

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline is causing a ripple effect, threatening to impact prices well beyond the pump and raising flags about cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

The shutdown, due to a ransomware attack, could impact millions of consumers in all kinds of warns Financial Analyst Chuck Minnich.

"The pipeline provides 45% of the fuel that's consumed in the northeast," he said.

If the Colonial Pipeline is back up and running by the end of this week as the company hopes Minnich said the impact will not be "dramatic or long-lived."

RELATED: Pipeline cyberattack causes gas price hike across Delaware Valley

But if the shutdown continues for two weeks or more, analysts warned we could have serious problems.

"What you'll tend to see since everything we buy and sell has to be transported, is prices go up across the board," he said. "We'll see it in food, appliances, furniture, electronics, airline ticket prices go up, gasoline surcharges added to your shipping fees."

A long shutdown could also affect the demand side of the equation.
If people are paying more at the pump, that leaves less money to spend elsewhere and consumer confidence will likely decline.

"And if that stays intact, you can see job growth begin to slow. So it really will have an impact beyond just pricing," he said.

Meantime, the attack on the Colonial Pipeline is highlighting concern over cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

In this case, hackers used ransomware to scramble data that it will decode and keep to themselves only if Colonial pays up.

"Criminals are also targeting individuals and they're asking for ransom as well, to the tune of $500 to $1,200," Cyber Crime expert Rob D'Ovidio said. "We need to make sure our computers are secure."

D'Ovidio said one was is to beware of any suspicious emails asking you to click on links or provide user IDs or passwords.

That is how the cyber-criminals might have infected the Colonial system.

"We can not only protect the companies that we work for but protect our own personal computing resources and our own home networks," he said.
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