(AP) — The Justice Department
has recovered the vast majority of a multimillion-dollar ransom payment made to hackers
following a cyberattack
that forced the operator of the nation's largest fuel pipeline to halt operations last month, officials said Monday.
The operation to recover the cryptocurrency from the Russia-based hacker group is the first undertaken by the Biden administration
Justice Department's specialized ransomware
task force, and it reflects what U.S. officials say is an increasingly aggressive approach to dealing with a ransomware threat that has targeted critical industries around the world in the last month.
“By going after an entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital currency, we will continue to use all of our tools and all of our resources to increase the costs and consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled attacks,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco at a news
conference announcing the operation on Monday.
, based in Georgia
, supplies roughly half of the fuel consumed on the East Coast
. On May 7, a gang of criminal hackers known as DarkSide broke into its computer system and temporarily shut down its operations.
Colonial officials have stated that they took their pipeline system offline before the attack could spread to its operating system, and that they decided to pay a $4.4 million ransom in the hopes of restoring it as soon as possible.
The 63.7 bitcoin
ransom — a popular currency among hackers because it is thought to be more difficult to trace — is currently valued at $2.3 million.
“The extortionists will never see this money
,” said Stephanie Hinds, acting United States
Attorney for the Northern District of California
, where the seizure warrant was filed.
generally discourages ransom payments, fearing that it will encourage more hacking
. Monaco stated that the takeaway for the private sector is that if companies come forward quickly, officials may be able to conduct similar seizures in the future.