White House won’t say if Colonial paid ransom over DarkSide hacking demands

Biden administration deferring to private company to say whether ransom was paid

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
@graemekmassie
Tuesday 11 May 2021 08:16
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The White House has refused to say if Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom over the DarkSide hacking demand.

The FBI says that the hacking group was behind the ransomwear attack on the company, which was forced over the weekend to shut down its 5,500-mile pipeline that runs between Texas and New York.

The Biden administration said at a Monday briefing that it was up to the private company to address if it had paid the DarkSide ransom after the attack.

Officials say that the FBI has been investigating the “DarkSide variant” since last October, and described it as a “service variant where criminal affiliates conduct attacks and share proceeds with ransomwear developers.”

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber & Emerging Technologies Anne Neuberger told reporters that Colonial had not asked for cyber support from the federal government following the attack.

Ms Neuberger said that the government was “aggressively investigating the incident and its culprits.”

But when she was asked about Colonial paying a ransom she refused to confirm anything.

“We recognise that victims of cyber attacks often face a difficult situation and have to balance the cost benefit when they have no choice but to pay a ransom. We will defer the decision on paying a ransom to them,” she said.

“Typically that is a private sector decision and the administration has not offered further advice at this time.”

The Independent has reached out to Colonial for comment.

And Ms Neuberger added that at this stage it appeared that the attack was a criminal one, and not linked to a nation state.

“DarkSide is a new and very troubling variant where it is provided as a service and the proceeds are split. That is something that we are particularly troubled by,” she said.

“We currently assess it as a criminal actor but of course our intelligence communities are looking for any ties to any nation state actors and if we find that we will look into it further.”

Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor, Dr Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, told the briefing that the pipeline had suffered no damage and that Colonial would be bringing it back online “relatively quickly.”

She also said that there was currently “no supply shortages” caused by the shutdown and that the federal government was working to ensure that continued to be the case.

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