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Colonial Pipeline fuel tanks at a junction near Woodbine, Maryland. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

CEO of Colonial Pipeline Joseph Blount told the Wall Street Journal he authorized a ransom payment of $4.4 million to the DarkSide cybercrime group on May 7 in an attempt to restore the services of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S.

Why it matters: The federal government for years has recommended that companies do not pay criminals during ransomware attacks over fears that the transactions would only encourage more groups to conduct future attacks.

Context: The breach of the pipeline triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.

  • As a result of the ransomware attack, gas stations in at least 12 states and the District of Columbia experienced gas shortages, which have persisted even after the pipeline resumed normal operations on Saturday, according to crowdsourced data collected by GasBuddy.

What they're saying: Blount told WSJ that Colonial paid the ransom after consulting experts who had dealt with DarkSide in the past.

  • “I know that’s a highly controversial decision,” Blount said. “I didn’t make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this.”
  • “But it was the right thing to do for the country."

The big picture: In exchange for the millions of dollars in the form of bitcoin, Colonial Pipeline received from DarkSide a decryption tool that ultimately did not immediately restore its computer systems, a person involved with the transaction told the WSJ.

  • DarkSide claimed last week that it would be shutting down after it had lost access to the infrastructure needed to carry out its extortion operations and that a cryptocurrency account it uses to pay its affiliates had been drained.
  • Security experts say cyber criminal groups often disband only to return under different names, and it therefore can't be determined if the disruption to DarkSide's infrastructure is legitimate or permanent.

Go deeper: The new digital extortion

Go deeper

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Federal judge blocks Biden administration's use of Title 42 policy

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a public health order that fast-tracked deportations of migrant families at the southern border.

Why it matters: President Biden has faced significant backlash for retaining the Trump-era policy, which was implemented as a COVID containment measure. The expulsions deny adult migrants and families the chance for asylum.