The Justice Department recovered most of the multimillion-dollar ransom Colonial Pipeline paid Russian-based hackers last month, officials said.
“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," Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a Monday statement.
The attack shut down operations at the nation’s largest fuel pipeline and caused gas shortages all along the East Coast, including North Central Florida.
How did they do it? The recovery operation was a first for the new, specialized ransomware task force created by President Biden’s Justice Department to counter the increasing threat of criminal cyber gangs who target U.S. corporations.
The task force seized the cryptocurrency paid to the hacker group by identifying a virtual currency wallet used by the group.
Colonial Pipeline paid 75 bitcoins—then worth $4.5 million—to regain access to its systems. The Justice Department retrieved 85 percent of the ransom, or 63.7 Bitcoins, which due to the fluctuations in bitcoin value is now only worth $2.3 million.
With reporting by J.C. Derrick.
This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2021, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.