In early May, a cyberattack in the United States left much of the country in check. The ransomware attack targeted the country’s largest pipeline company, which had to pay a ransom to get its system back. Now, however, authorities say they have recovered millions of dollars paid in Bitcoin for that ransom.
As indicated by the authorities, they have recovered $2.3 million of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline Co. Translated into bitcoins, that comes to approximately 64 bitcoins. That’s a large majority of what was supposedly paid for the ransom. While the company has not given exact figures, it is believed that they paid about 75 bitcoins for the ransom.
The $2.3 million was much more a month earlier, when bitcoin had a higher value. The ransom value at the time was around $4.5 million. What has happened to the rest? It has been devalued due to the big drop in Bitcoin in recent weeks.
The U.S. Department of Justice says that “the extortionists will never see this money.” While they have declined to detail how they got their hands on the money, it appears that they somehow intercepted the wallet where the money had been sent by Colonial Pipeline Co. probably at some intermediate step in the exchanges when the hackers tried to launder it by passing it through multiple wallets and diversifying it.
“This case demonstrates our determination to develop methods to prevent wrongdoers from turning new payment methods into tools and extortion for undeserved gains,” the U.S. Department of Justice has said. The FBI has long officially discouraged ransom payments, as criminals often fail to deliver and victims lose money as well.
This operation to recover money has occurred between different authorities in the United States with the help and collaboration of Colonial Pipeline Co. The different organizations have worked together to track the money. “Follow the money and you will find what you are looking for” seems to be a saying that still applies also with Bitcoin, the blockchain and the privacy it promises.