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US Pipeline Executive Felt Cornered By Russian Hackers | Voice Of America

Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount told lawmakers he felt he had no choice but to pay the hackers who shut down America’s largest pipeline and demanded a ransom to free operations. In a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Blount claimed responsibility for agreeing to pay Russian hacker network DarkSide about $ 5 million to resume fuel supplies on the Atlantic coast. “I know how vital our pipeline is to the country and I put the interests of the country first,” Blount said. “It was the most difficult decision I have made in my 39 years in the industry.” DarkSide’s May 7 attack on Colonial Pipeline sparked a fuel shortage and a shopping panic in parts of the United States, as well as skyrocketing gasoline prices. U.S. law enforcement authorities and FBI cyber experts advise companies not to pay ransoms to pirates, but Blount said that although Colonial was in contact with the FBI, it decided that paying DarkSide was the most prudent option. “Considering the consequences of potentially not restoring pipeline service in the time we wanted, I chose the ransom.” Blount said Colonial did not deal with DarkSide directly, but instead hired legal experts and negotiators to act as intermediaries. The payment was sent on May 8 in bitcoin cryptocurrencies. DarkSide then supplied Colonial with a decryption key that helped the company regain access to its systems and resume operations, although some systems are still being reactivated online. Blount’s testimony came a day after the Justice Department and the FBI announced that they managed to trace the ransom and recover about 80% of the money paid in Bitcoin, equivalent to about $ 2.3 million. Not everyone applauds the action. However, former officials believe that the solution puts the government and the private sector alike on slippery ground. “It is not the FBI’s job to go out and retrieve money from criminals once they have stolen it,” Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said in a virtual photo Tuesday. Other experts fear that companies, organizations and government, as in the case of Colonial Pipeline, are putting themselves at a disadvantage. “With ransomware there are two misunderstandings: to pay the criminals or not to pay,” said Raj Samani, co-founder of No More Ransom, an organization that distributes free decryption keys. “Many of the decoders that ransomware groups develop are very bad. . So if you pay a ransom, you may not be able to get all your data back. ” In the case of Colonial Pipeline, the key allowed the company to begin restoring some of its systems. Blount told lawmakers that Colonial is trying to beef up its cyber defenses. He explained that DarkSide gained access to Colonial’s systems by exploiting a virtual private network that was no longer in use and was protected by a single password. CISA recommends using what is now known as multi-factor authentication, which requires users to use a password and then complete a second step, such as replying to a text message, to access crucial systems. Connect with the Voice of America! Subscribe to our YouTube channel and activate notifications, or follow us on social networks: Facebook, Twitter

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