DarkSide, Blamed for Colonial Pipeline Attack, Says It Is Shutting Down

Since the DarkSide account was opened in March, Elliptic said, it had received $17.5 million from 21 Bitcoin wallets, indicating the number of ransoms it had collected just this spring. Cybersecurity analysts assess that the group has been active since at least August, and has most likely used a number of different Bitcoin wallets to receive ransoms.

The intense scrutiny that followed the Colonial Pipeline attack has clearly unsettled ransomware groups. This week, the operators behind two major Russian-language ransomware platforms, REvil and Avaddon, announced strict new rules governing the use of their products, including bans on targeting government-affiliated entities, hospitals or educational institutions.

The administrator of XSS, a popular Russian-language cybercrime forum, announced an immediate ban on all ransomware activity on the forum, citing, among other things, the bad press associated with the industry. In a statement posted in the forum, the administrator called the attention a “critical mass of harm, nonsense, hype and noise,” saying even the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had weighed in on the Colonial Pipe attack. (The spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, denied that the Kremlin had been involved in the attack on the pipeline.)

“The word ransom has become associated with a whole series of unpleasant things — geopolitics, blackmail, government cyberattacks,” the XSS administrator wrote. “This word has become dangerous and toxic.”

Even if DarkSide has shut down, the threat from ransomware has not passed. Cybercriminal networks often disband, regroup and rebrand themselves in an effort to throw off law enforcement, cybersecurity experts say.

“It’s likely that these ransomware operators are trying to retreat from the spotlight more than suddenly discovering the error of their ways,” said Mark Arena, Intel 471’s chief executive. “A number of the operators will most likely continue to operate in their own close-knit groups, resurfacing under different aliases and ransomware names.”

Indeed, DarkSide gave no indication that its members were getting out of the ransomware business or even letting victims currently infected with the group’s malware off the hook. In its statement, DarkSide said it would hand over its decryption tools to affiliates, giving these intermediaries, who were responsible for infecting computer systems with the group’s malicious software, the ability to negotiate ransoms with victims directly.

“You will be given decryption tools for all the companies that haven’t paid yet,” the statement read. “After that, you will be free to communicate with them wherever you want in any way you want.”

Julian Barnes contributed reporting.

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The Latest News on the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

HOUSTON — Panicked drivers scrambled to fuel their vehicles across the Southeast on Tuesday, leaving thousands of stations without gasoline as a vital fuel pipeline remained largely shut down after a ransomware attack.

The disruption to the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, also left airlines vulnerable, with several saying they would send jet fuel to the region by air to ensure that service would not be disrupted.

Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 3 to 10 cents a gallon on Tuesday, a jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt refinery and pipeline operations along the Gulf Coast.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 2 cents on Tuesday, with higher prices reported in the Southeast, according to the AAA motor club. The average increase was nearly 7 cents in South Carolina, 6 cents in North Carolina and 3 cents in Virginia.

Gas Buddy, a service that tracks gas prices, reported.

“There’s no gas, and people are getting frustrated,” said Ariyana Ward, a 19-year-old college student in Virginia Beach who waited 45 minutes to fill up. With some motorists taking time to fill cans as well as cars, she said, “people are getting into shouting matches.”

State leaders responded with measures intended to keep the flow of fuel steady and stabilize prices.

suspend some fuel transport rules. Governor DeSantis also activated the National Guard to cope with the emergency.

South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, announced that he was ready to invoke the state’s price-gouging law, making excessive overcharging a criminal offense. “I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” Mr. Wilson said.

At the White House, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm told reporters, “We know we have gasoline; we just need to get it to the right places.” But she made no promises about when the pipeline, which was shut down to prevent the cyberattack from spreading, would resume operations, saying the company will decide on Wednesday whether it is ready to do so.

She said she expected gas station operators to act “responsibly,” adding, “We have no tolerance for price gouging.”

The administration considered other steps that might alleviate shortages, including moving gasoline, diesel and jet fuel by train, or issuing a waiver for a 1920 law known as the Jones Act, which requires that maritime shipments be on vessels owned and staffed by Americans. But it was unclear if the right kind of either rail cars or foreign-registered ships were available.

“There are no easy solutions,’’ Ms. Granholm said.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Michael Regan, issued an emergency waiver for fuel air emissions on Tuesday to help alleviate fuel shortages in places affected by the pipeline shutdown, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The waiver will continue through next Tuesday.

Colonial Pipeline, the company that operates the pipeline, has said it hopes to restore most operations by the end of the week. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation said had been carried out by an organized-crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system. The pipeline provides the Eastern United States with nearly half its transportation fuel.

Colonial has remained largely silent, answering no questions about the kind of protections it had in place on both its computer networks and the industrial controls that run the pipeline.

In a statement late in the day on Tuesday, Colonial said it had manually started one part of the pipeline and delivered about 41 million gallons of fuel to various locations on its system, from Atlanta, through the Carolinas and to Linden, N.J.

But the company said nothing about what factors will play into its decision on when to restart the pipeline. And it has not explained whether it found any evidence that the malware placed in its data systems could migrate to the operations of the pipeline.

Several experts noted that while the two networks are described as separate entities, they have considerable crossover. For example, one of the systems the ransomware group tied up tracks how much fuel each customer uses. Without that running, Colonial would not know how much fuel any of its customers were receiving — or how to get paid for it.

Industry analysts said the impact of the hacking would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon. “With a resolution to the shutdown in sight, the cyberattack is now treated as a small disturbance by the market, and prices are trimming Monday’s panic-gains,” said Louise Dickson, an oil markets analyst for Rystad Energy.

a 2018 report, the group argued that the interstate pipeline system used to supply jet fuel to airports had grown increasingly vulnerable to costly disruptions. And when disruptions occur, airlines have few good options beyond flying in extra fuel, adding stops to flights, or canceling and rerouting flights.

After the disruption last weekend, American Airlines said it had added stops to two daily flights out of Charlotte, N.C. One, to Honolulu, will stop in Dallas, where customers will change planes. The other, to London, will stop in Boston to refuel. The flights are expected to return to their original schedules on Saturday.

Southwest Airlines said it was flying in supplemental fuel to Nashville, and United Airlines said it was flying extra fuel to Baltimore; Nashville; Savannah, Ga.; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. United, Southwest and Delta Air Lines said they had not experienced any disruptions to their operations so far.

Gillian Friedman contributed reporting.

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Pipeline Hit by Ransomware Hopes to Restart by End of Week

An oil and gas pipeline system that was forced to shut down on Friday after a ransomware attack is not expected to be “substantially” restored until the end of the week, its operator, Colonial Pipeline, said on Monday.

“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a statement posted on its website. “This plan is based on a number of factors with safety and compliance driving our operational decisions, and the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.”

The company said it was monitoring its customers’ supplies and was working with shippers to move fuel. Oil and gas prices came well off their highs of the day after Colonial’s statement.

The sudden shut down of 5,500 miles of pipeline, which the company says carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, has been a troubling sign of vulnerabilities in the nation’s energy infrastructure.And the shutdown had raised concerns about fuel supplies to large portions of the country. Prices on gasoline futures had soared on Monday as a result, and analysts had said a prolonged shutdown could drive them even higher — potentially affecting prices consumers pay for gas at the pump.Experts said several airports that depend on the pipeline for jet fuel, including those in Nashville, Baltimore-Washington and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., could have a hard time later in the week. Airports generally store enough jet fuel for three to five days of operations.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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‘We’re Suffering’: How Remote Work Is Killing Manhattan’s Storefronts

“Not being able to have a flexible deal was making the business unsustainable,” Mr. Perillo said.

The landlord of his best store, Premier Equities, declined to comment on its dealings with Dr Smood. But property records show that Premier had amassed a big debt on the building that housed the store, which may have factored into its decision.

In 2014, Premier Equities paid $11.25 million for the building, financing the purchase with a $9 million mortgage. In 2017, Premier borrowed another $5 million against the building, the records show. Premier also declined to comment on the debt.

Some property owners have deeper pockets than others, and in big office buildings where retail income makes up a small fraction of overall rent, landlords are not hurting as badly because corporations, law firms and other tenants are still paying rent. These landlords can offer rent deals for longer to keep their properties looking lively.

Mark Strausman, a noted chef, went ahead last fall with plans for a new restaurant, Mark’s Off Madison. He could do so in part because his landlord, Rudin Management, is not charging him rent, except for the first month’s payment.

Nonetheless, the restaurant is losing money. But, Mr. Strausman said, “I don’t believe that after all of this, people want to stay home and cook.”

William C. Rudin, Rudin’s chief executive, said he wanted the restaurant to stay open in part so that employees in the offices above might feel better about returning. Mr. Rudin said he believed in Mr. Strausman’s vision but had not decided how long to keep waiving the rent. “Luckily, this is a small percentage of our portfolio, so it hasn’t impacted us, but for small owners, these are very difficult decisions to make,” Mr. Rudin said.

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Turkey’s Looming Lockdown Prompts a Rush to Stock Up

The streets of Istanbul were abuzz, the grocery stores packed, the seaside promenades crowded — but it was not the bustle of an ordinary spring Thursday. People were flocking to take advantage of the last day before a new lockdown takes hold, the strictest in Turkey since the pandemic began.

Daily reports of new coronavirus cases rose swiftly in the country after the government started lifting earlier safety strictures in March, and are now generally around 40,000 a day, according to official figures, with some days reaching 60,000 or more. The health care system is swamped with patients, and the country set a grim record last week with 362 Covid deaths reported in a single day.

The country’s heath minister, Fahrettin Koca, has said that more contagious variants of the virus are partly to blame for the accelerating spread. Critics say the government relaxed too soon in March, before the country had made much progress with vaccination.

Turkey has fully vaccinated only about 11 percent of its people so far — 8.8 million out of a population of 83 million — using mainly the CoronaVac vaccine developed in China and the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. It has had a hard time securing more doses, and has resorted to postponing second doses to stretch its supply. But Mr. Koca said he expects 30 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine in June, and to soon add the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia to its effort.

61 percent of all workers in Turkey are employed in sectors that are exempt from the lockdown, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture and transportation.

Gokhan Aydin, 45, who works in a cable factory in Bursa, said he and his coworkers “would have loved to be part of the full lockdown, without loss of income, as the virus peaked.” Though his factory has good Covid precautions, he said, he is still worried because the virus is everywhere.

The lockdown will land hardest on the many Turks who depend on informal day work. A single mother with five small children in Istanbul who collects and sells paper said her family can eat only on days when she can work.

“I really don’t know what to do,” she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing her welfare payments from the government. “I wish the state would give me a job.”

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Pakistan, With Record Covid Deaths, Warns of Tighter Lockdown

With Covid-19 deaths surging to records in Pakistan this week, the government has sent troops to the streets to help enforce coronavirus precautions, and is warning it may turn to a lockdown if the spread is not controlled.

Pakistan reported 201 deaths on Tuesday, the most in a single day so far, and has counted a total of 17,680 Covid deaths since the pandemic began. More than 5,200 patients are receiving critical care in the country’s hospitals. And there are fears that the virus could rampage through Pakistan the way it is doing in neighboring India if immediate steps are not taken to curb its spread. All travel to India has been banned.

Fawad Chaudhry, the minister for information, said on Thursday that the government will be forced to impose a strict nationwide lockdown if the situation continues to deteriorate.

“Right now, the national positivity rate is 11 percent,” he told reporters in Islamabad, referring to the share of virus tests that are coming back positive. “If it goes up to 14 or 15 percent, we will have no choice but to move toward a lockdown.”

Soldiers are now patrolling streets and markets in more than a dozen cities, telling people to keep wearing masks and making sure mandatory closing times and other safety protocols are followed. Only essential food items and medicines may be sold after 6 p.m.

The approach of the Eid al-Fitr holiday next month, when people typically do more shopping and socializing, has raised concerns.

The government has urged caution and simpler festivities this year. Travel between cities and between provinces will be banned from May 8 until May 16, and hotels, public parks and tourist facilities will be closed.

Vaccination efforts in Pakistan, with a population of more than 200 million, are progressing slowly. Health officials say 2 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, initially focused on people over 60 and health care workers. Eligibility will expand on Monday to include anyone over 40. By June, the country expects to have received 18.7 million doses, most of them to be distributed free by the government, though the private sector has been allowed to obtain some doses for sale to affluent patients.

Mariam Chaudhry, an Islamabad resident, is waiting her turn under the government program. She said she wanted to be vaccinated so she could move around and travel safely, but others were being prompted more by the recent dire news from across the border.

“People were reluctant to inject new vaccines with unknown side effects,” Ms. Chaudhry said. “But the situation in India has delivered a powerful wake-up call. With catastrophe at the doorsteps, rising numbers of people are now rushing to inoculate.”

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In France, an Ever-Extending Labyrinth of Covid Lockdowns

PARIS — Three French lockdowns, and counting, over the past 13 months have been many things, among them a rare opportunity for the formidable national bureaucracy of about 5.6 million public servants to display their gift for the complication of lives.

With the announcement of the third Paris lockdown last month to try to control the spread of the coronavirus, an apotheosis of the absurd was reached.

A dense, two-page version of the notorious “attestation,” a government form to be completed anytime one leaves home, was so convoluted that it tied the Interior Minister’s spokeswoman in verbal knots trying to explain it. The document had metastasized with each lockdown into an ever more ungainly monster.

over 100,000 people in France have died from it, and more than five million have been infected — was not immediately clear.

The sheer intricacy of the bureaucratic obtuseness overwhelmed me. I could not help wondering whether some fraction of the many hours devoted to coming up with such regulations might have been better used speeding the vaccines to more people. France has up to now underwhelmed in getting its population vaccinated.

The country’s shoe repair stores are open, even if you can’t buy new shoes. Its florists are open, but not kitchenware stores. Its frozen goods shops are open, but not gift shops. Bookstores are open now, although they were closed in the first lockdown. All restaurants, bars and cafes are closed. Mr. Macron has suggested that some easing of restrictions will start on May 3 — maybe.

One sign I recently passed in a shuttered beauty salon read: “Contrary to ‘hairdressers,’ it seems we are not essential to well-being. Injustice!”

As for lingerie and underwear stores, deemed nonessential and so closed, they have embarked on a national protest involving sending lacy panties every day to Prime Minister Jean Castex from all over France.

I know there has to be a logic to what’s open and what’s closed. France, after all, still has a commissioner general for planning, as if the Soviet Union had never disappeared. The country proceeds with methodical purpose based on the analysis and forecasts of highly trained public servants, formed in elite schools.

Still, an overwhelming question grips my entire being: Why these apparently arbitrary rules?

I asked a Castorama store assistant to explain why, for example, the lamps I coveted were off limits while I could buy a crepe maker.

“I don’t really know,” she said. “But, of course, you can always use a candle.”

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Italy’s Problem With School Dropouts Goes From Bad to Worse in Pandemic

NAPLES — Francesca Nardi never liked school, or thought she was particularly good at it, but with the help of teachers and classmates she had managed to stick around until 11th grade. When the pandemic hit, though, she found herself lost in online classes, unable to understand her teacher through the tablet the school gave her. She was failing, likely to get left back, and planning to drop out.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon she paused from chatting with two friends, who had already dropped out, near her house in the projects of Naples’ eastern outskirts.

“It’s better if I just work,” Ms. Nardi, 15, said. “And not waste another year.”

Even before the pandemic, Italy had among the worst dropout rates in the European Union, and the southern city of Naples was particularly troubled by high numbers. When the coronavirus hit, Italy shuttered its schools more than just about all the other European Union member states, with especially long closures in the Naples region, pushing students out in even higher numbers.

While it is too early for reliable statistics, principals, advocates and social workers say they have seen a sharp increase in the number of students falling out of the system. The impact on an entire generation may be one of the pandemic’s lasting tolls.

three times longer than France, and more than Spain or Germany.

And experts say that by doing so, the country, which has Europe’s oldest population and was already lagging behind in critical educational indicators, has risked leaving behind its youth, its greatest and rarest resource for a strong post-pandemic recovery.

“We are preparing badly for the future,” said Chiara Saraceno, an Italian sociologist who works on education.

Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, allowed all Italian high school students to go back to school in person for at least half of their classes starting on Monday. Finishing the academic year in class, Mr. Draghi has said, should be a priority.

“The whole government thinks that school is a fundamental backbone of our society,” said Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza. “The first place where we will invest.”

But a good deal of damage has already been done.

Throughout much of the last year, the government argued that keeping high schools closed was necessary to prevent infection on the public transportation that students took to and from class.

Elementary schools were allowed to open more often, but the country’s insistence on closures, especially of middle and high schools, experts say, risked exacerbating inequalities and the country’s profound north-south divide. National and regional officials drew sharp criticism, and even the education minister who was in office then argued that schools should have opened more.

Mr. Speranza acknowledged that schools had paid “a very high price in these months.”

Schools around the southern city of Naples have remained closed longer than the rest of the country, in part because the president of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, insisted they were a potential source of infection. At one point, he mocked the notion that children in his region were “crying to go to school.”

In Naples, the dropout rate is about 20 percent, twice the European average, and in the city’s outskirts it is even higher. Teachers there have struggled to keep students interested in school, and worry that months of closed classrooms would shut students out for good.

As schools closed Francesco Saturno, 13, spent his mornings helping in his grandfather’s fruit shop, sleeping in or glued to his PlayStation. He only twice logged on to his online class.

His mother, Angela Esposito, 33, who herself dropped out of high school, worried that he might leave school and follow in the footsteps of his father, who earns tips of loose change for babysitting parked cars in Naples.

“I am scared that if he doesn’t go to school he is going to get lost,” she said. “And getting lost in Naples is dangerous.”

In Italy, it is illegal for students below the age of 16 to drop out of school, and the local prosecutor for the minors’ court, aware that social workers are swamped, asked school principals to report dropout cases directly to her.

“I am really worried,” said the prosecutor, Maria De Luzenberger. In the last month, about a thousand drop out cases from Naples and the nearby city of Caserta have piled up on her desk, she said. That was more than in all of 2019. “I didn’t expect such a flood.”

Colomba Punzo, the principal of Francesco’s school, said dropouts had tripled in her primary and middle school during the school closures. She scrambled to find an alternative, and organized in-person workshops every morning to get Francesco and other at-risk children back into the system.

Ms. Punzo said policymakers underestimated how closing schools in neighborhoods like Ponticelli meant cutting “the only possible lifeline,” for the children. “When the school is open you can grab them and make them come, when the school is closed what do you do?”

In Naples’ Scampia district, known across Italy as a tough place plagued for years by the Camorra mafia, teachers at the Melissa Bassi High School had made significant progress in getting local children into school through art projects, workshops and personal tutoring.

The school’s principal said half of its students stopped following classes when they moved online. He said they gave cellphone SIM cards to those who could not afford Wi-Fi and offered evening lessons to teenagers forced to work as the pandemic hit their families’ finances.

But the challenge was enormous. Some of the neighborhood’s most neglected housing projects lack cellphone coverage, and children are often crammed with multiple family members into a few rooms. Teachers hoped most of the students would return if and when schools reopened, but they feared those who fell behind won’t see the point of going back.

“They are so discouraged,” said Marta Compagnone, a teacher there. “They think the bets are off.”

Hanging out with his friends on the steps of a square below the “Sails,” a huge triangular housing project a few blocks from Melissa Bassi High School, Giordano Francesco, 16, said he often fell asleep, grew bored and frustrated with the online classes he followed on his phone. He got into arguments with teachers because he often logged off to help his grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease, eat or use the bathroom.

His mother, who left school at 10 and lost her job as a theater cleaner during the pandemic, asked him to finish the school year. He said he would, and then drop out afterward.

His girlfriend, Marika Iorio, 15, standing next to him, said she intended to graduate, become a psychologist and live a different life from her father, who cannot read or write. But she was struggling to follow school online and failing her classes, too.

“I am scared I might not make it,” she said.

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Covid-19 Pushes India’s Middle Class Toward Poverty

Anil G. Kumar, a civil engineer, was one of them. Around this time last year, he and his family were about to buy a two-bedroom apartment. But when last year’s lockdown hit, Mr. Kumar’s employer, a construction chemicals manufacturer, slashed his salary by half.

“Everything turned turtle within a few hours,” he said. Three months later, his job had been eliminated.

Now Mr. Kumar spends his days in his home in a working-class neighborhood in the western part of Delhi, searching for jobs on LinkedIn and taking care of his son.

The family’s middle-class life is now under threat. They survive on the $470-a-month salary Mr. Kumar’s wife draws from a private university. Instead of holding a big celebration for their son’s 10th birthday at a restaurant, which would have cost nearly $70, they ordered a cake and a new outfit for about one-fifth the cost. Mr. Kumar also canceled his Amazon Prime subscription, which he hadn’t used in a while.

“Every day you can’t sit on the laptop,” he said. “At times, you feel depressed.”

India’s middle class is central to more than the economy. It fits into India’s broader ambitions to rival China, which has grown faster and more consistently, as a regional superpower.

To get there, the Indian government may need to address the people the coronavirus has left behind. Household incomes and overall consumption have weakened, even though the sales of some goods have increased recently because of pent-up demand. Many of the hardest hit come from India’s merchant class, the shopkeepers, stall operators or other small entrepreneurs who often live off the books of a major company.

“India is not even discussing poverty or inequality or lack of employment or fall in incomes and consumption,” said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring of the Indian Economy. “This needs to change first and foremost,” he said.

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