mcloudy.png
Thursday October 21st, 2021 2:34PM

Pipeline exec to face Congress as US recovers most of ransom

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month is expected to detail his company's response to the cyberattack and to explain his decision to authorize a multimillion-dollar payment when he testifies before Congress this week.

Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will face the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, one day after the Justice Department revealed it had recovered the majority of the $4.4 million ransom payment the company made in hopes of getting its system back online. A second hearing is set for Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Blount's testimony marks his first appearance before Congress since the May 7 ransomware attack that led Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, to temporarily halt operations. The attack has been attributed to a Russia-based gang of cybercriminals using the DarkSide ransomware variant, one of more than 100 variants the FBI is currently investigating.

The company decided soon after the attack to pay ransom of 75 bitcoin, then valued at roughly $4.4 million. Though the FBI has historically discouraged ransomware payments for fear of encouraging cyberattacks, Colonial officials have said they saw the transaction as necessary to resume the vital fuel transport business as rapidly as possible.

The operation to seize cryptocurrency paid to the Russia-based hacker group is the first of its kind to be undertaken by a specialized ransomware task force created by the Biden administration Justice Department. It reflects a rare victory in the fight against ransomware as U.S. officials scramble to confront a rapidly accelerating threat targeting critical industries around the world.

“By going after the entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital extortion attacks — including criminal proceeds in the form of digital currency — we will continue to use all of our resources to increase the cost and consequences of ransomware and other cyber-based attacks,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference announcing the operation.

In a statement Monday, Blount said he was grateful for the FBI's efforts and said holding hackers accountable and disrupting their activities "is the best way to deter and defend against future attacks of this nature.

“The private sector also has an equally important role to play and we must continue to take cyber threats seriously and invest accordingly to harden our defenses,” he added.

Cryptocurrency is favored by cybercriminals because it enables direct online payments regardless of geographical location, but in this case, the FBI was able to identify a virtual currency wallet used by the hackers and recovered the proceeds from there, Abbate said. The Justice Department did not provide details about how the FBI had obtained a “key” for the specific bitcoin address, but said law enforcement had been able to track multiple transfers of the cryptocurrency.

“For financially motivated cyber criminals, especially those presumably located overseas, cutting off access to revenue is one of the most impactful consequences we can impose,” Abbate said.

The Bitcoin amount seized — 63.7, currently valued at $2.3 million after the price of Bitcoin tumbled— amounted to 85% of the total ransom paid, which is the exact amount that the cryptocurrency-tracking firm Elliptic says it believes was the take of the affiliate who carried out the attack. The ransomware software provider, DarkSide, would have gotten the other 15%.

“The extortionists will never see this money,” said Stephanie Hinds, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, where a judge earlier Monday authorized the seizure warrant.

Ransomware attacks — in which hackers encrypt a victim organization's data and demand a hefty sum for returning the information — have flourished across the globe. Last year was the costliest on record for such attacks. Hackers have targeted vital industries, as well as hospitals and police departments.

Weeks after the Colonial Pipeline attack, a ransomware attack attributed to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months, disrupted production at Brazil’s JBS SA, the world's largest meat processing company.

The ransomware business has evolved into a highly compartmentalized racket, with labor divided among the provider of the software that locks data, ransom negotiators, hackers who break into targeted networks, hackers skilled at moving undetected through those systems and exfiltrating sensitive data — and even call centers in India employed to threaten people whose data was stolen to pressure for extortion payments.

_____

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this report.

___

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Pipeline exec to face Congress as US recovers most of ransom
The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month is expected to detail his company’s response to the cyberattack and to explain his decision to authorize a multimillion-dollar payment when he testifies before Congress this week
12:42AM ( 5 minutes ago )
US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer
12:23AM ( 24 minutes ago )
'A lot of anxiety' for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls
Six months into the Democrats’ hold on Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless
12:11AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Canadian police say Muslim family targeted by deadly attack
Police in London, Ontario, say a driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims
11:54PM ( 54 minutes ago )
Fed lawyers: Trump not liable for 'crude' remarks at accuser
Justice Department lawyers say Donald Trump cannot be held personally liable for “crude and disrespectful” remarks he made while president about a woman who accused him of rape
11:53PM ( 55 minutes ago )
Train barrels into another in Pakistan, killing at least 51
An express train barreled into another that had derailed in Pakistan, killing at least 51 people
10:54PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Automakers face a threat to EV sales: Slow charging times
If the auto industry is to succeed in its bet that electric vehicles will soon dominate the roads, it will need to overcome a big reason why many people are still avoiding them: fear of running out of juice between Point A and Point B
6:22PM ( 6 hours ago )
FDA approves much-debated Alzheimer’s drug panned by experts
Government health officials have approved the first drug that they say may help slow Alzheimer’s disease
6:02PM ( 6 hours ago )
Full volume: White House briefing room back to crammed again
The White House briefing room on Monday might have been a fire marshal’s nightmare
4:03PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: Hawaii's eviction moratorium extended 60 days
Hawaii's governor is extending for two more months an eviction moratorium that he implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, but says he doesn’t expect to keep it longer than that
10:27PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Wash. state OKs free pot as vaccine incentive
Washington state says licensed marijuana stores can offer free joints to promote coronavirus vaccine clinics
7:43PM ( 5 hours ago )
Drought-stricken Nevada enacts ban on 'non-functional' grass
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed legislation to make the state the first in the U.S. to ban certain kinds of grass
7:15PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Time ticking away, Democrats face wrenching test on agenda
Bracing for political trouble, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has warned Democratic colleagues that June will “test our resolve.”
12:45PM ( 12 hours ago )
Schumer recommending 2 voting rights lawyers to be judges
The Senate’s top Democrat is recommending President Joe Biden nominate two prominent voting rights attorneys to be judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and on the federal bench in Manhattan
12:42PM ( 12 hours ago )
High court won't review men-only draft registration law
The Supreme Court, for now, is leaving it up Congress to decide whether to change the requirement that only men must register for the draft
11:45AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Peru's presidential runoff election too close to call
A rural teacher-turned-political novice and the daughter of an imprisoned former president have traded the lead in a tight race for Peru's presidency
11:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Asian shares edge lower after mixed finish on Wall Street
Stocks have edged lower in Asia after a mixed finish on Wall Street
11:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Kim presents plans to stabilize battered N. Korean economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presented economic plans to senior ruling party officials before an upcoming meeting to review the nation’s efforts to overcome severe hardships amid a prolonged COVID-19 crisis
10:58PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Stocks slip on Wall Street, pulling back from record highs
Stocks edged lower in afternoon trading Monday after briefly approaching the record highs they reached a month ago
2:55PM ( 9 hours ago )
Daughter of imprisoned ex-president leads Peru's election
The daughter of an imprisoned former president is maintaining a razor thin advantage over her opponent in the race for Peru’s presidency
12:25PM ( 12 hours ago )
Bosch opens $1.2B semiconductor factory in eastern Germany
German technology company Bosch has opened a $1.2 billion computer chip factory in the eastern city of Dresden to help meet the growing demand for semiconductors
12:24PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Financial Markets
US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer
12:23AM ( 25 minutes ago )
'A lot of anxiety' for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls
Six months into the Democrats’ hold on Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless
12:11AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Down Under criminals tricked into using FBI-run message app
Authorities in Australia and New Zealand say they’ve dealt a huge blow to organized crime after hundreds of criminals were tricked into using a messaging app that was being secretly run by the FBI
12:06AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Apple previews new software for iPhone, other gadgets
Apple kicked off its second annual all-virtual developer conference with a keynote that outlined new updates to its software for iPhones and other devices
12:04AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Canadian police say Muslim family targeted by deadly attack
Police in London, Ontario, say a driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims
11:54PM ( 54 minutes ago )