• Wed. Jun 16th, 2021

One of the United States’ major fuel pipeline operators paid $US4.4 million ($5.6 million) in ransom to hackers following a cyber attack that shut its entire network

ByDavies

May 20, 2021
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One of the United States’ major fuel pipeline operators paid $US4.4 million ($5.6 million) in ransom to hackers following a cyber attack that shut its entire network because it was “the right thing to do for the country”.

Key points:

  • Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount said the “highly controversial” payment was necessary given the debilitating impact of the multi-day shutdown
  • His remarks amount to the first public acknowledgement by the company of the ransom payment
  • Unknown actors last Friday shut down the servers of Russia-based cyber-extortionist DarkSide, which was behind the ransomware scam

Colonial Pipeline, which provides nearly half of the US east coast’s fuel supply, closed on May 7 after one of the most disruptive cyber attacks on record prevented millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing.

Joseph Blount, the president and CEO of Colonial Pipeline, told the Wall Street Journal he recognised the payment was a “highly controversial decision”, but that it was a necessary action given the debilitating impact of the multi-day shutdown on the US.


“I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this,” Mr Blount told the publication.

“But it was the right thing to do for the country.”

His remarks amount to the first public acknowledgement by the company of the ransom payment.

The pipeline’s shutdown caused panic buying in the eastern United States and a spike in gasoline prices.(AP: Robert Willet/The News & Observer)

Ransom reportedly made in Bitcoin

Colonial Pipeline announced last Thursday it had restarted operations and resumed fuel deliveries to all markets after completing shutting down the line following the cyberattack.

The shutdown caused panic buying in the eastern US and a spike in gasoline prices as Washington waived clean air regulations and rules on shipping and trucking to alleviate shortages.

Unknown actors last Friday shut down the servers of Russia-based cyber-extortionist DarkSide, which was behind the ransomware scam.

After making the ransom payment on the night of May 7, Colonial Pipeline received a decryption tool from the hackers.

The ransom payment was made in Bitcoin, the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

While the pipeline’s flow has returned to normal, the episode will cost Colonial Pipeline tens of millions of additional dollars to completely restore the operations over a matter of months, Mr Blount told the newspaper.

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