Colonial Pipeline, the U.S. company that operates the U.S. pipeline network hit by a cyberattack, paid a ransom of about $5 million to the hackers who attacked it, according to Bloomberg news agency. The news outlet, which cites two sources familiar with the transaction, claims this information contradicts reports earlier this week when the company said it had no intention of paying an extortion fee to help restore the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.
The company paid the sizable ransom in cryptocurrencies, which are untraceable, within hours of the attack, highlighting the immense pressure the Georgia-based operator faced to get gasoline and jet fuel flowing again to major cities along the East Coast.
A third source cited by the agency, who also does not identify, notes that U.S. government officials know Colonial made the payment. Once they received the payment, the hackers provided the operator with a decryption tool to restore its disabled computer network.
CNBC had already reported a few hours ago that Colonial had made the payment to the hackers, although it did not specify the amount paid.
The source the TV channel spoke to, who asked to remain anonymous, did not specify how much money the company paid or when the transaction took place, while Colonial refused to answer this question.
Shortly before this information was published, U.S. President Joe Biden refused at a press conference to answer questions about whether Colonial had paid a ransom, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her daily appearance that the federal government’s policy remains to not hand over the money demanded, for fear of encouraging cybercriminals to launch more attacks.
Meanwhile, on Monday one of Biden’s senior advisers on cybersecurity, Anne Neuberger, also declined to confirm a ransom payment. “Normally that’s a private sector decision,” she said.
The FBI has accused the Eastern European-based Darkside hacking group of being responsible for last Friday’s cyberattack on the pipeline network, operated by Colonial, which caused its activities to be disrupted for several days. On Wednesday, Colonial announced the resumption of its operations, although it warned that it would take several days before returning to normal.
This Thursday it reported in a statement that work to resume full flow in the pipeline network was progressing and that by midday all the markets they serve would be supplied. That network provides fuel to 45% of the U.S. East Coast market, and transports up to 2.5 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel a day from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to the south and east of the country.