Official says US seized ransom made to pipeline hackers

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FILE – In this May 12, 2021, file photo, the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company in Charlotte, N.C. U.S. pipeline operators will be required for the first time to conduct a cybersecurity assessment under a Biden administration directive to be issued Thursday in response to the ransomware hack that disrupted gas supplies in several states this month. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government has seized millions of dollars in a cryptocurrency payment made to hackers after a cyberattack that caused the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month, a law enforcement official said Monday.

FBI and Justice Department officials were to disclose the operation at a news conference later Monday. The official was not authorized to discuss the news ahead of the news conference and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, temporarily shut down its operations on May 7 after a gang of criminal hackers known as DarkSide broke into its computer system.

Colonial officials have said they took their pipeline system offline before the attack could spread to its operating system, and decided to pay a roughly $4.4 million ransom in an effort to bring itself back online as soon as it could.

The FBI generally discourages the payment of ransom, fearing it could encourage additional hacks.

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