The US Department of Justice said it recovered more than $ 2 million in bitcoin, the majority of the ransom paid by US pipeline giant Colonial Pipeline to cybercriminal group DarkSide.
The DoJ recovers 63.7 BTC
The DoJ made the announcement in a press release on Monday, June 7, 2021. According to it, the department recovered 63.7 bitcoins, worth $ 2.1 million, at the time. The operation was undertaken by the Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, a unit created by the Department of Justice in April to combat ransomware attacks.
In May, Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack from a criminal hacking group known as DarkSide, crippling the company’s operations. Colonial Pipeline halted operations for nearly a week due to the attack, causing widespread panic and shortages at gas stations.
The company paid a ransom of 75 bitcoins, worth $ 4.4 million at the time. Although Colonial Pipeline complied with the ransom demand, the company wasted no time in informing law enforcement about the attack. During this time, the FBI was able to trace the transfer of approximately 63.7 BTC to a particular wallet address, with the law enforcement officer having the private key for the address.
In the DoJ announcement, Lisa Monaco, the U.S. Deputy Attorney General, said the Justice Department is committed to bringing down ransomware attack groups. According to Monaco:
âWe will continue to target the entire ransomware ecosystem to disrupt and deter these attacks. Today’s announcements also demonstrate the value of early notification to law enforcement; We thank Colonial Pipeline for promptly informing the FBI when they learned they were being targeted by DarkSide.
As previously stated by CryptoPotato in May, Colonial Pipeline wasn’t the first DarkSide victim to make ransom payments. The cybercriminal group, according to blockchain security firm Elliptic, has received $ 90 million in payments from more than 40 victims.
US government wants to end ransomware attacks
Meanwhile, there has been a growing attack on US-based companies by ransomware hackers in 2021 alone. In February, the US arm of major automaker KIA Motors came under attack, with hackers threatening to increase their claim to 600 BTC if the company did not pay on time.
The Steamship Authority of Massachusetts and JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, have also been affected by ransomware attacks. The latter suspended the slaughter of cattle in its US factories, but then resumed operations.
In response to these attacks, the US government plans to track cryptocurrency transactions in an effort to prevent further ransomware attacks. Two US senators also called for increased regulation and tracing of cryptocurrencies.
Indeed, cybercriminals demanding payment of bitcoin as ransom fuel the negative opinions of critics about bitcoin and other crypto assets. Although there appears to be an increase in the use of crypto for ransom payments, cash is still the first choice for hackers and other criminal acts.
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