Colonial Pipeline CEO Confirms Ransom Was Paid

'It was the right thing to do for the country'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2021 5:30 PM CDT
Colonial Pipeline CEO Confirms Ransom Was Paid
The Speedy Mart in Beulaville, NC, was out of gasoline Tuesday, May 11, 2021.   (Ethan Hyman)

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline has confirmed that he made the "highly controversial decision" to pay ransom to hackers who breached the company's systems, causing major problems with the East Coast's gas supply. "I didn’t make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this," Joseph Blount tells the Wall Street Journal. "But it was the right thing to do for the country." The FBI has long urged companies hit by ransomware attacks not to pay up, warning that doing so will only lead to more attacks. Blount says he authorized the $4.4 million payment because execs weren't sure how bad the breach was or how long it would take to restore service. A source tells the Journal that a decryption tool was received in return for the ransom, though it wasn't enough to fully unlock Colonial's systems immediately.

Blount says the company made the payment after speaking to experts familiar with DarkSide, the Eastern Europe-based criminal organization believed to have carried out the attack. He says even with the ransom payment, fully restoring all its system will take months and cost the company tens of millions of dollars. He says it has also cost the company its low profile. "We were perfectly happy having no one know who Colonial Pipeline was, and unfortunately that’s not the case anymore," he says. "Everybody in the world knows." The BBC reports that DarkSide says the cyberattack had nothing to do with politics. "Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society," the group wrote on its website. (More Colonial Pipeline stories.)

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