FBI warns never to pay ransom demands of cyberattackers

Reporter: Rich Kolko Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
The entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company is shown Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. Several gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by hackers entered its fifth day. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The owner of the largest gas lines affected by a cyberattack did something the FBI says you should never do, which is pay the ransom.

The attack on Colonial Pipeline is causing widespread gas outages across parts of the United States, including in Florida.

WINK News Safety & Security Specialist Rich Kolko spoke to colleagues about the nature of the hack foreign crooks pulled off.

There were approximately 5.6 billion malware attacks in 2020. The most common way hackers get in is through a phishing email.

All it takes is one click on the wrong link.

A major gas thoroughfare was stopped by hackers. It sent drivers across the country into panic mode, making a mad dash to gas stations.

Thankfully, the Colonial Pipeline is back flowing again.

We asked the FBI in Tampa if a phishing attack was the mode for this particular cyberattack.

“In this case, you know, we don’t know at this point, but that is certainly possible,” said Andrew Sekela, an FBI agent in Tampa. “It literally just takes one slip up like that to allow the bad guys into your system.”

The U.S. government has tied this attack to an eastern European hacking group called “Darkside,” which led to a demand for a $5 million ransom from Colonial to give them access back to their own files.

The FBI says companies should never give in and pay the crooks.

“It also emboldens cyber actors to increase their malicious activity, i.e., to install ransomware possibly on the same victim or on other victims as well,” Sekela said.

The FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others will continue to investigate this case that caused such enormous damage.

Sekala stressed that backing up data and training employees not to click on unknown attachments is the first step.

The billions of attacks confirmed in 2020 is actually down by about one half that were confirmed in 2019.


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