The Justice Department has disclosed it managed to help the Colonial Pipeline Co recover some $2.3 million in crypto-currency ransom it paid to hackers
On Wednesday, FBI Director Chris Wray pleaded with public companies and other hacking victims to avoid paying ransom, saying he fears it will only embolden cyber criminals to ramp up future attacks.
“In general, we would discourage paying the ransom because it encourages more of these attacks, and frankly, there is no guarantee whatsoever that you are going to get your data back”, Wray testified before a US Senate appropriations panel.
The Justice Department has disclosed it managed to help the Colonial Pipeline Co recover some $2.3 million in crypto-currency ransom it paid to hackers – an attack that led to widespread shortages at gas stations on the East Coast.
The FBI had a private key to use to unlock a bitcoin wallet holding most of the money and so, the FBI was able to recover those funds. It was unclear how the FBI managed to access the key.
Although bitcoin seizures by the federal government are relatively uncommon, authorities have been stepping up their expertise in tracking the flow of digital money.
Wray said on Wednesday that the FBI is seeing increasingly sophisticated types of ransom-ware attacks and that cyber thieves have been demanding larger sums of money.
“We’ve seen the total volume of the money paid I think triple over the last year or so”, said Wray.
Municipal governments and companies who become victims of ransom-ware attacks should consider going to the FBI as soon as possible, and not wait, he said.
“When they do, there’s all kinds of things that we can do”, said Wray.
“Sometimes through other work we’ve done, we might have the decryption key and be able to help the company unlock their data without having to pay the ransom”, he added.