US firm paid $5 million ransom to ‘online bandits’ who hacked oil pipeline

Colonial Pipeline, an oil firm which operates the United States’ largest fuel pipeline, paid hackers responsible for the downtime it experienced last week, almost $5 million in ransom, reports have revealed.

Bloomberg first reported the payment, citing a U.S. official familiar with the matter as a source. The U.S. official did not give specifics as to how or when the company paid, but noted that U.S. government officials are aware that Colonial made the payment.

Colonial had announced on Friday that it had been hacked, shutting down all its major pipelines. This saw the hikes in gas prices and scarcity in some stations.

The company later announced on Wednesday that it was resuming operations, making an announcement on Saturday that its pipeline system has returned to “normal operations” after the forced shutdown.

“Since this incident began, we have been clear that our focus was on the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system,” the company said in a Twitter thread.

The hackers, identified as DarkSide, hold organisations’ files hostage and demand a payment, either by locking their files and making them unusable or threatening to release them to the public, their ransomware program is designed to shut down if they infect computers that work in the Russian language.

NBC reports that U.S. President Joe Biden said intelligence believes DarkSide is operating within Russia’s borders, and he is “going to have a conversation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin about such groups.

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