This Fairfax, VA gas station was one of hundreds that closed for lack of gas after the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline on May 7 that shut down its pipeline. (Source: WikiMedia)

FBI Pursues Hackers with New Task Force, Recovers $2.3M in Bitcoin from Ransomware Attack

The New York Times reported that the FBI tracked down Bitcoin used to pay a Russian hacking group last month to get it to release its computers used to control the flow of fuel that supplied half of the East Coast.

According to a story on MIT’s newsletter, The Download, the FBI worked with Colonial Pipeline to trace 75 bitcoins through 23 different cryptocurrency accounts operated by DarkSide, a Russian cybercrime collective. A U.S. judge allowed them to break into a wallet that contained 63.7 bitcoins. They were worth $5 million at the time of the transfer, but are now down to $2.3 million in value. The Times wrote that it was just one of many such attacks:

“In recent weeks, ransomware has also crippled the hospital that serves the Villages in Florida, the largest retirement community in the United States; television networks; N.B.A. and minor league baseball teams; and even ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.”

According to, this was the first effort coordinated by the Ransomware Task Force formed by the FBI to counter the growing number of attacks on the American government’s agencies, businesses and individuals, most recently against JBS, a meat processor, which had to shut down nine plants. Along with Russia, Chinese hackers have been active in attacking companies’ computer systems.

“Although the Department has taken significant steps to address cybercrime, it is imperative that we bring the full authorities and resources of the Department to bear to confront the many dimensions and root causes of this threat,” Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin wrote to DOJ department heads, U.S. attorneys and the FBI on Tuesday.

This is intended to be just the beginning in striking back against hackers. President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva and will urge him to hold them accountable—something the Russian government has not done; instead, it has benefited from stolen technologies and intelligence. In addition, the DOJ plans to devote more resources to training and intelligence sharing and will reach out to private businesses for cooperation with ransomware and extortion threats.

While the ransomware issue has been around for about six years, it has worsened recently because of its successes and the inaction of the DOJ until now, according to a story.