Bloomberg News has reported that the ransom was paid by the Colonial Pipeline to the hacking group in untraceable cryptocurrency in order to receive a decrypting tool used to restore their computer network, according to “two people familiar with the transaction.”
Although media outlets including the Washington Post and Reuters said the company had no immediate plans to pay the ransom, it was said the ransom was paid within hours of the attack. According to the report, Colonial received the decrypting tool after payment but it was so slow the company continued using its own backups to help restore the system.
This news comes after the FBI confirmed on Monday the attack had been carried out by a supposed Russian-linked ransomware hacking group known as “Darkside.” This pipeline supplies roughly 50% of gas on the East Coast, causing thousands of gas stations in the region to shut down as early in the week as Tuesday and Wednesday.
President Biden and his administration have struggled to come up with a coherent response to the crisis in the days following the attack, even acknowledging private companies sometimes had to pay in situations of attack such as this.
When asked by reporters during the May 10th press briefing if any advice on paying the ransom had been given, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies Anne Neuberger responded “We recognize that victims of cyberattacks often face a very difficult situation. And they have to just balance off, in the cost-benefit, when they have no choice with regard to paying a ransom. Colonial is a private company, and we’ll defer information regarding their decision on paying a ransom to them.”
A follow up regarding if the adminstration had given any advice to pay the ransom or not and Neuberger continued, “That is a private-sector decision, and the administration has not offered further advice at this time.”
As tempers across the region flare the administration’s response continues to be mum. Video has surfaced of customers of gas stations hoarding fuel much like hoarding of things like toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, even coming to blows as lines form at a station in North Carolina. WATE 6 TV shows video of a man and woman, who have now both been charged, assaulting each other while waiting in line for gas.
Gas prices across the country have been on the rise ever since the cancelation of the Keystone Pipeline project which aimed to increase U.S. energy independence. President Biden put a stop to the Keystone Pipeline project as one of the first executive orders since he took office on January 20th. The importance of such a project is ever more apparent in light of the last week’s events surrounding the United State’s energy industry.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches and many Americans plan to celebrate, Colonial Pipeline Co. is said to hopefully have this issue resolved as early as this coming weekend. While the gas in these lines move at a sluggish 3-5 mph, some Americans may have to think twice before taking that weekend drive.