FBI Recover Ransom Paid To Pipeline Hackers

The US Justice Department (DoJ)  has recovered most of the $4.4 million (£3.1m) ransom payment made to Russian hackers after a cyber attack that caused the operator of the nation's largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations. The DoJ say that the FBI had somehow obtained the secret key to the hackers Bitcoin wallet and this allowed US agents to unlock the wallet and transfer Bitcoins to a wallet that was controlled by the FBI. 

The Justice Department did not provide details about how the FBI had obtained a key for the specific bitcoin address, but said law enforcement had been able to track multiple transfers of the crypto-currency. A San Francisco judge approved the recovery of funds of this "crypto-currency address," which was located somewhere in the Northern District of California. 

The FBI has not explained how they got access and they will probably keep that  secret, although this success may be related to the international law enforcement Operation Trojan Shield in which agencies in 18 countries seized over $148 million in currency, hundreds of illegal weapons, six tons of cocaine and five tons of marijuana. The FBI and other agencies set up and secretly ran the ANOM messaging app, which was designed to suit the needs of organised crime groups. They were then able to access more than 27 million messages sent through the app.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a press conference. "Today we turned the tables on DarkSide," a Russia-linked cyber crime group blamed in Colonial Pipeline attack. Monaco said that investigators had "recaptured" 63.7 bitcoins, now valued at about $2.3 million, following a drop in the value of crypto currency in recent weeks." 

Joseph Blount, CEO of Colonial Pipeline, said his company had worked closely with the FBI from the beginning and was grateful for the "swift work and professionalism" of the agency. “I made the decision to pay, and I made the decision to keep the information about the payment as confidential as possible,” Blount said  that he has “deeply sorry” for the effect of the shutdown but had to act fast as it worked to determine whether the criminal gang had compromised the operational systems or physical security of the 5,500-mile pipeline and to try to avoid a more sustained shutdown.

The Darkside  attackers entered the company's networks on 29th April and they used a VPN account that no longer worked.

A Colonial control room employee discovered the attack on 7th May, after seeing a ransom note demanding crypto-currency. and started the process of shutting down the pipeline to contain the threat. The shutdown sparked panic in the south-eastern US, where residents were seen lining up at petrol pumps for several hours over fears of fuel shortage. Petrol prices rose as a result of fuel supply disturbance, and some stations ran out of fuel. 

After it emerged that Colonial Pipeline had paid ransom to hackers, President Biden said that the government would take all necessary steps to disrupt hackers' operations. Cyber criminals have increasingly targeted organisations that operate  critical infrastructure across many sectors of the US economy. 

Cyber criminals demand ransom in the form of crytpo-currency because it enables direct online payments regardless of geographical location. In this case, the FBI was able to identify a virtual currency wallet used by the hackers and recovered the proceeds from there. 

Dept. of Justice:       Dept.of Justice:       WorldPipelines:      CNN:     MBT:   

 Spectrum News:     Computing:    Image:Unsplash

You Might Also Read:

Running Out Of Cyber Gas:

 

« Singapore Is The Cyber Attack Hotspot
Questions Business Leaders Should Ask Themselves »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

CSI Consulting Services

CSI Consulting Services

Get Advice From The Experts: * Training * Penetration Testing * Data Governance * GDPR Compliance. Connecting you to the best in the business.

Perimeter 81 / Black Hat On-Demand Webinar

Perimeter 81 / Black Hat On-Demand Webinar

Black Hat On-Demand Webinar - Identity is the New Perimeter: This webinar will provide you with vital insights to help understand the need for Zero Trust and how it can transform your network.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO is the market leader in HPE Non-Stop Security, Risk Management and Compliance.

IT Governance

IT Governance

IT Governance is a leading global provider of information security solutions. Download our free guide and find out how ISO 27001 can help protect your organisation's information.

LockLizard

LockLizard

Locklizard provides PDF DRM software that protects PDF documents from unauthorized access and misuse. Share and sell documents securely - prevent document leakage, sharing and piracy.

Jooble

Jooble

Jooble is a job search aggregator operating in 71 countries worldwide. We simplify the job search process by displaying active job ads from major job boards and career sites across the internet.

Syxsense

Syxsense

Syxsense brings together endpoint management and security for greater efficiency and collaboration between IT management and security teams.

BackupVault

BackupVault

BackupVault is a leading provider of completely automatic, fully encrypted online, cloud backup.

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout enables cyber security professionals to reduce cyber risk to their organization with proactive security solutions, providing immediate improvement in security posture and ROI.

Mandalorian Security Services

Mandalorian Security Services

Mandalorian Security Services specialise in technical Information Assurance services, such as penetration testing and in Incident Response to malware and high-end targeted attacks.

CERT.BY

CERT.BY

The National Computer Emergency Response Team of the Republic of Belarus.

Quaynote Communications

Quaynote Communications

Quaynote Communications is a specialist conference and communications company focused primarily on the maritime, yachting, aviation and security industries.

CyCognito

CyCognito

CyCognito empowers companies to take full control over their attack surface by uncovering and eliminating the critical security risks they didn't even know existed.

BwCIRT

BwCIRT

BwCIRT is the Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) for Botswana and provides an official point of contact for dealing with computer security incidents.

Crosspring

Crosspring

Crosspring is an incubator/accelerator for people who have the ambition to start a successful business or want to extend their existing business in the areas of FinTech, AR, VR, Cybersecurity and SaaS

Shift5

Shift5

Shift5 focus on securing operational technology (OT) by building best-in-class, dual-use products serving military and commercial entities.

Syxsense

Syxsense

Syxsense brings together endpoint management and security for greater efficiency and collaboration between IT management and security teams.