By Joseph Chalfant
A Department of Justice task force announced that it had recovered $2.3 million in bitcoin from the Colonial Pipeline hackers.
Colonial Pipeline, who fell victim to a cyber-attack conducted by the hacking group DarkSide on May 7, worked in coordination with the FBI to recover more than half of the $4.4 million ransom, according to CNN.
Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate explained that government agencies identified a DarkSide cryptocurrency wallet and seized its contents. The operation was the first success for the Justice Department’s new Ransomware and Cyber Extortion Task Force that aims to disrupt and prosecute those committing cybercrimes.
While the FBI usually advises victims against paying ransoms for cyberattacks, Colonial CEO Joseph Blount told the Wall Street Journal, “I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this…But it was the right thing to do for the country.”
Despite paying the ransom, the company worked closely with the FBI to help track down the attackers.
“Following the money remains one of the most basic, yet powerful, tools we have,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during a press conference. “Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises.”
While testifying during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on June 8, Blount thanked employees and the public for their support and apologized for the disruptions the attack caused.
“I want to express my gratitude to the employees of Colonial Pipeline, and the American people, for your actions and support as we responded to the attack and dealt with the disruption that it caused,” he said.
The hack shut down the 5,500 mile long pipeline for 11 days, led to gasoline price spikes and shortages across the East Coast, and prompted North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to call a state of emergency.
Colonial Pipeline is just the biggest name in the recent sting of cyberattacks against major companies. JBS, Navistar, and the Massachusetts Steamship Authority have all fallen victim to hacks in the span of a week.
In an attempt to shore up national cyber defense, President Biden signed an executive order in May aiming to increase security in government agencies. Officials in the Biden administration are hoping that the federal government’s involvement in cybersecurity will develop software to protect private industry as well, according to Fox Business.