The United States Department of Justice announced on Monday the recovery of part of the ransom that the Colonial Pipeline company paid to cybercriminals who partially blocked its infrastructure with the Darkside ransomware. Specifically, they have seized 63.7 bitcoins currently valued at approximately $2.3 million.
The attack occurred in early May on this company, the largest oil pipeline company in the United States, and caused fuel shortages, an increase in prices and the declaration of a state of emergency since all operations of the pipeline as a system were temporarily stopped. precautionary. The country lived in a critical situation for hours.
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According to the government department, Colonial Pipeline informed the FBI that it was suffering from this cyberattack, that it had received a ransom request for approximately 75 bitcoins and had agreed to pay. At that time, a sum that reached approximately 4.4 million dollars. Now, with the recent crashes of Bitcoin, its value is much lower.
The FBI on the hunt for bitcoins and wallet passwords
Thanks to the early notice made to the FBI, they explain from the Justice Department, it was possible to review the Bitcoin ledger, trace multiple transfers and identify around 63.7 bitcoins. A sum that went to the same address and represents a large part of the ransom paid, which has not been specified, although it is estimated at those 75 bitcoins that we mentioned.
The seizure order was authorized on Monday by the courts and, thanks to the fact that the FBI had the private key to access the assets, the 63.7 bitcoins currently valued at approximately $ 2.3 million were recovered. This amount, although cryptocurrency, represents the traceable product of a computer intrusion and the goods involved in money laundering, the authorities explain, therefore they can be seized under the laws of criminal and civil confiscation.
The FBI has not disclosed how it was able to obtain the private key that gave it access to the cybercriminals’ wallets. Bitcoin addresses, as we know, are based on a double encryption system composed of a public key, which can be consulted, and a private key, the one that users have and allow them to operate with their digital currencies.
Despite ensuring that the FBI and the Department of Justice will continue to combat cyberattacks with ransomware with all the means at their disposal, including tracing cryptocurrencies and seizing them “so that these attacks are more costly and less profitable for criminal companies”, they recall that “ransom payments are the fuel that drives the engine of digital extortion”.
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