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Colonial Pipeline paid $5m ransom to cyberhackers

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Colonial Pipeline paid $5m ransom to cyberhackers

The company that operates America's biggest fuel pipeline has reportedly paid a ransom of nearly $5m (£3.5m) to hackers who shut down the facility last week triggering fuel shortages and price hikes across the East Coast. 

Colonial Pipeline paid the extortion fee on Friday, Bloomberg reported, despite reports that it had no plans to do so and concerns that paying a ransom simply encourages hackers. 

The pipeline is not yet back at full force following the cyberattack on Friday, when the criminal gang Darkside locked computers controlling the pipeline

The pipes transport 2.5m barrels a day of diesel, petrol and jet fuel across 5,500 miles of pipelines linking refiners on the Gulf Coast to the eastern and southern US. 

Holding tanks are seen in an aerial photograph at Colonial Pipeline's Dorsey Junction Station - Reuters

The shutdown triggered fuel shortages from Virginia to Florida and panic buying, with the national US gasoline price rising above $3 a gallon and jumping as much as 11 cents in a day in some areas.

According to Bloomberg, Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom in untraceable cryptocurrency hours after the attack, and the hackers responded with a decrypting tool to start restoring the network. This worked slowly, however, and Colonial continued using its back-up systems. 

A report last month by a ransomware task force said the amount paid by victims of ransomware - a type of computer virus -  increased by more than 300pc in 2020, reaching about $350m in cryptocurrency.

The average ransom paid by organisations last year was just over $300,000, according to the report.

Little is known about Darkside, although experts say it appears to be composed of veteran cybercriminals, and is part of professional groups of extortionists who try to cloak their criminality in respectability. Darkside offers chat support to victims and pledges not to target hospitals and schools, for example. 

The group reportedly also pledges not to target non-profits or governments.  

A spokesman for Colonial declined to comment to Bloomberg.  

Reference: The Telegraph: Rachel Millard

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