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Thursday, July 29, 2021

U.S. Justice Department Recovers Millions in Cryptocurrency Ransom Paid to Pipeline Hackers

The United States Justice Department announced on June 7 that it has seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency paid in ransom to the cybercriminals responsible for the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last month.

“Earlier today, the Department of Justice has found and recaptured the majority of the ransom Colonial paid to the DarkSide network in the wake of last month’s ransomware attack,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced at a press conference.

According to the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to track and recover 63.7 bitcoin currently valued at about $2.3 million.

Last month, Colonial Pipeline Chief Executive Joseph Blount told Wall Street Journal that the company paid the hackers 75 bitcoins currently valued at $4.4 million in ransom because the company was uncertain about the extent of the damage brought by the attack and how long it would take to restore operations.

The FBI had the “private key” needed to access the funds from the specific Bitcoin address where the ransom was paid, the department said.

“This bitcoin represents proceeds traceable to a computer intrusion and property involved in money laundering and may be seized pursuant to criminal and civil forfeiture statutes,” the department said in a statement.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the Northern District of California authorized the seizure warrant.

Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California assured that the “extortionists will never see this money”.

“New financial technologies that attempt to anonymize payments will not provide a curtain from behind which criminals will be permitted to pick the pockets of hardworking Americans,” Hinds said.

The seizure marks the first recovery by the department’s new Ransomware Task Force.

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