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Colonial Pipeline CEO tells Congress paying ransom 'hardest decision' in 39 years in energy industry

Federal authorities warn companies to not pay the ransom because it could encourage more attacks across the country. 

Updated: June 8, 2021 - 4:41pm

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Joseph Blount, the CEO of Colonial Pipeline, which owns the large pipeline that supplies petroleum to the East Coast, said Tuesday on Capitol Hill that paying a ransom to cyber hackers was the right move, regardless of federal authorities discouraging the act.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve made in my 39 years in the energy industry, and I know how critical our pipeline is to the country – and I put the interests of the country first,” Blount told the Senate Homeland Security committee.

He also said he tried to keep the payment as confidential as possible.

Last month, the hackers put ransomware on Colonial computers, shutting down the pipeline for several days, which resulted in panic buying and shortages at gas stations in some parts of the coast.

The Justice Department recovered about 85% of the $4.4 million ransom that was paid by seizing a virtual bitcoin wallet, according to the Associated Press. 

The FBI is still investigating the hacking group, DarkSide, that is purportedly responsible for the attack.

Federal authorities warn companies to not pay the ransom because it could encourage more attacks across the country. 

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