US Officials Recover Millions Paid as Ransom to Hackers

Federal agents have been able to track and seize the Bitcoin wallet into which the ransom was paid.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, June 7, 2021, announced the recovery of a crypto wallet containing bitcoin worth millions. The wallet held the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to hackers.

The US fuel pipeline had in May suspended activities in the entire East Coast after a ransomware attack froze its payment systems. This sparked fears concerning gas shortage in eighteen states and President Biden had to address the nation in a broadcast to allay the fears.

To regain control of its systems, the pipeline company paid about $4.5 million in Bitcoin (BTC) to the hackers, who were linked to the DarkSide hacking group, a Russian-based Cybercrime group that has been linked to several high profile cyber-attacks on companies since August 2020.

How the Colonial Pipeline Ransom Was Recovered

Deputy Attorney of the DOJ, General Lisa Monaco announced on Monday that the Pipeline company made a report after the incident. She claimed the Bureau had set up a task force since then, and now, federal agents have been able to track and seize the Bitcoin wallet into which the ransom was paid.

Furthermore, the transaction was tracked using a block explorer and eventually, the officials were able to recover $2.3 million in BTC. Reuter reports that this amounts to about 63.7 bitcoins out of the 75 BTC that was paid as ransom.

An affidavit by an undisclosed Federal official revealed that the task force set up by the DOJ was now in possession of the private key for the wallet address allowing them to control it.

According to Elliptic’s Chief Scientist, Tom Robinson, the seized BTC wallet appears to belong to an affiliate of DarkSide with the scientist confirming that 15% of the total ransom payment had been moved to DarkSide itself.

Matters Arising from the Ransom Recovery

The D.A noted that the findings of the investigators revealed that the criminal elements and their associates were targeting key players in the nation’s infrastructural system and advised corporate and community leaders to invest in cybersecurity to protect their organizations and companies.

She also noted that the advanced use of technology to hold people groups and cities to ransom was peculiarly a 21st-century challenge and that the Bureau was up to the task as they would “follow the money” as they have always done traditionally.

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Babafemi Adebajo

An experienced writer and Fintech enthusiast, passionate about helping people take charge of, scale and secure their finances. Has ample experience creating content across a host of niche. When not writing, he spends his time reading, researching or teaching.

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