clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4 million ransom after being hacked

Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount said it was controversial, but paying the ransom ‘was the right thing to do for the country’

Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.
Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. The operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline has confirmed it paid $4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems.
Chris Carlson, Associated Press

The chief executive of Colonial Pipeline has confirmed that the company paid a $4.4 million ransom to hackers earlier this month, saying the decision was important to America’s infrastructure.

The ransom was paid after hackers installed a ransomware program on Colonial Pipeline’s networking, forcing the massive East Coast petroleum supplier to shut down its operations.

“I know that’s a highly controversial decision,” said CEO Joseph Blount in an exclusive interview with The Wall Street Journal about the May 7 attack. “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,” Blount told the Journal.

Paying ransom with Bitcoin

The Associated Press reported that the FBI discourages companies from paying ransoms to hackers, “because paying encourages criminal networks around the globe.”

  • Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom with cryptocurrency, specifically around 75 Bitcoin, according to the AP.
  • After the ransom was paid, Colonial Pipeline was provided a “decryption tool to unlock the systems hackers penetrated,” but it did not allow the company to bring their pipelines immediately back into operations, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Colonial Pipeline — which delivers around 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline, according to the The Associates Press — said on Twitter that pipeline operations returned to normal on May 12.
  • As a result of the hack and ensuing pipeline shutdown, gas demand and prices in the country shot up this month, Deseret News reported.