A press release reported that the United States recovered a digital wallet used for a Colonial Pipeline ransom.
US investigators recovered millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies paid to Russian ransomware hackers in the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, the Justice Department revealed Monday. The information was released through various media.
In early May, a cyberattack in the United States left much of the country in check. The ransomware attack targeted the largest oil pipeline company in the country, which had to pay a ransom to recover its system. However, authorities now claim to have recovered millions of dollars paid in Bitcoin for that ransom.
According to the authorities, the United States recovered 2.3 million dollars of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline Co. Translated into bitcoins, they are approximately 64 bitcoins. It is a large majority of what is supposed to have been paid for the ransom. While the company has not given exact figures, it is believed that they paid about 75 bitcoins for the ransom.
Researchers offered details of the Bitcoin bailout
“Earlier today, the Justice Department has found and recaptured most of the ransom that Colonial paid to the DarkSide network in the wake of the ransomware attack.” Lisa Monaco, deputy attorney general of the United States, said Monday during a press conference.
“Ransomware attacks are always unacceptable, but when they target critical infrastructure, we will spare no effort in our response,” added Monaco. We turned DarkSide around today.
The $2.3 million was much higher a month ago when Bitcoin was worth more. The value of the ransom at the time was around $4.5 million.
Recovering a ransom paid by a company that had fallen under a cyber attack was rare. Last month, Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount revealed in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that his company paid around $4.4 million ransom in Bitcoin to DarkSide. A group of ransomware hackers based in Russia, after it suffered the cyberattack.
Bitcoin is no longer the ideal solution for extortionists
The US Department of Justice says that “extortionists will never see this money.” Although they have not wanted to detail how they have obtained the money, it seems that they have somehow intercepted the wallet where the money had been sent by Colonial Pipeline Co. Probably in some intermediate step of the exchanges when the hackers have tried of washing it by passing it through multiple wallets and diversifying it.
“This case demonstrates our determination to develop methods to prevent criminals from turning new payment methods into tools and extortion for undeserved profits.” The US Department of Justice has indicated.
The FBI has long officially discouraged paying ransoms. Criminals often fail to deliver and victims lose money as well.
This operation to recover the money has occurred between different authorities in the United States with the help and collaboration of Colonial Pipeline Co. The different organizations have worked together to track the money. “Follow the money and you will find what you are looking for.” It seems to be a saying that continues to apply also with Bitcoin, the blockchain and the privacy that it promises.
Typically, a ransomware attack involves hackers blocking computer systems by encrypting data and paralyzing networks. Right, before asking the target company for a big ransom to decipher them.
The FBI has long advised companies not to pay a ransom when hit by a ransomware attack. Since paying hackers gives them more incentive to target other organizations.
In the statement, the Department of Justice takes the opportunity to urge companies and public organizations to invest now in cybersecurity. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo yesterday acknowledged the growing concern in the Biden Administration. Faced with a threat that continues to grow and that is plunging the world’s leading power into a serious national security crisis.
The effects of the attack on the Colonial pipeline network lasted for several days. Gas stations on the East Coast – from Florida to Virginia – hung ‘out of service’ signs. Fuel prices skyrocketing as drivers panic over the threat of a shortage.