The CEO of the Colonial Pipeline has confirmed that hackers were paid at least $5.6 million after a ransomware attack that led to the temporary closure of the fuel pipeline.
Ten days ago we first reported that the Colonial Pipeline on America’s East Coast was hit by a ransomware attack that resulted in its operator shutting the pipeline down.
Since then, we’ve had new executive orders issued by President Joe Biden to protect vital infrastructure from cyber attacks, as well as news from the hackers themselves saying they “want cash and not to create problems.”
By the look of the latest reports, the hackers have indeed secured a payment from the Pipeline operator, with Colonial’s CEO stating that paying the ransom demands was “the right thing to do for the country.”
Joseph Blount, president and CEO of Colonial Pipeline has told the Wall Street Journal that while recognising the fact that paying hackers their demands was a “highly controversial decision,” he believed it was in the best interests of national security.
“I didn’t make that decision lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this,” he said, “but it was the right thing to do for the country.”
In terms of the reputational damage inflicted upon the company after the ransomware attack, Blount concedes that the actions of the hackers have taken a huge toll on the company.
“We were perfectly happy having no one know who Colonial Pipeline was, and unfortunately, that’s not the case any more… everyone in the world knows.”
It’s understood that on May 7th, Colonial Pipeline’s hackers were paid AUD $5.6 million after the ransomware attack, in the form of the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.
Pipeline CEO Confirms Hackers Were Paid $5.6 Million After Ransomware Attack
Once this payment was received by the ransomware collective known as ‘Darkside’, the hackers handed over a decryption tool to Colonial Pipeline, which allowed them to regain access to their system and ultimately restore normal operations.
Both the FBI and US Federal agencies have recommended that organisations do not pay hackers in the event of a ransomware attack, as it poses the risk of encouraging more attacks in the future.
The hack of the Colonial Pipeline is particularly significant given the fact that the 8,500km pipeline transports more than 2.5 million barrels worth of petroleum, diesel and jet fuel each day throughout the East Coast of America.
Analysts say that the pipeline transports more than 45% of the fuel on America’s East Coast, and supplies 14 states with fuel for energy production and the transportation sector.
Each day that the pipeline was shut down, Colonial Pipeline was losing its ability to transport 400-million litres of fuel.