After this was denied by the media until yesterday, the operators of the Colonial Pipeline have now paid a ransom in the millions in order to be able to restart the operation of the system. Once again, the cryptocurrency market is now in the focus of events, as this payment is said to have been processed by means of an as yet undisclosed digital currency. Initial investigations are underway…
Despite media denials: five million dollars ransom allegedly paid
While the energy supply situation in the eastern and southeastern United States has worsened significantly in recent days, it has now become known that the operators of Colonial Pipeline are said to have paid an amount of five million US dollars in the form of a ransom to the hacker group DarkSide in order to get the company’s own computers up and running again after a serious ransomware attack.
This was reported by Bloomberg yesterday, pointing out that the payment made by the Colonial Pipeline operating company in the form of cryptocurrency could not be traced. Curiously, a number of posts in the MSM on this topic previously stated that cryptocurrency transactions using new tools would be easier to trace.
While America’s mainstream media, such as the Washington Post, had previously stated that the fulfillment of a ransom payment by the Colonial Pipeline operating company was completely unthinkable and impossible, not without locating the members of the DarkSide hacker group almost exclusively in Russia, observers are now suddenly being taught otherwise based on Bloomberg’s reporting.
After the hacker group’s ransom demand was paid, Colonial Pipeline’s operators received a decryption tool that allowed them to bring their in-house computer system back online. However, the use of this tool was too slow, so the company continued to use its own backups in parallel to bring the system back up, according to Bloomberg.
FBI calls for not following ransomware demands
So which story should anyone believe? So far, the reporting doesn’t even seem to establish which of the now more than nine thousand cryptocurrencies were even used in this case.
After all, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) calls on companies, local governments, and the Washington federal government in general not to comply with ransom payments demanded by hacker groups after ransomware attacks, since it is not certain that the data will actually be decrypted again afterwards.
This would create the wrong incentives, as ransom payments would only result in further ransomware attacks. There is certainly something to be said for this argument, but anyone who has looked at the pictures of the past few days of those lines of vehicles up to five kilometers long in front of gas stations in the southeast of the country could not help but expect a possible outbreak of panic in the states most affected by this.
In some places, it was already happening after local gasoline prices, such as at some stations in the state of Virginia, exploded at times to as high as $6.99 per gallon. The gas station operators in question are now facing accusations of unnecessary price gouging, which they say helped fuel palpable panic among local consumers on social media.
If an intrusion including a successful crippling of one of the nation’s most important supply pipelines can occur in the United States, it is better not to imagine what might happen if a successful cyber attack on a nuclear power plant were to occur at some point in the future.
In addition to the government cyber network security agency CISA, U.S. President Biden has so far declined to make any official comment on whether or not the ransom payment by Colonial reported by Bloomberg occurred.
Progress: Pipeline is being restarted
Be that as it may, the Colonial Pipeline operating company said Thursday morning that substantial progress has since been made toward safely restarting the pipeline system. Gasoline and diesel supplies have resumed in the company’s largest and most important markets as a result, it said.
Among many consumers on the east and southeast coasts of the country, this news is likely to have caused a sigh of relief, after pictures of hamster gasoline buyers had been making the rounds on social networks since the beginning of the week.
After all, the estimated supply shortfall in gasoline, diesel and aviation kerosene after the pipeline shutdown amounted to about one hundred million gallons per day.
However, the fact that Colonial Pipeline has resumed operations does not mean that the supply situation in the states most affected by the shutdown will immediately ease. Most recently, U.S. media said that there was a locally varying, sometimes noticeable, undersupply in the area of available motor and transport truck drivers.
Crypto exchange Binance comes into focus – and with it the entire sector
Meanwhile, there are media reports that the cryptocurrency exchange Binance is under investigation in the United States by the Department of Justice and the IRS.
Observers by no means rule out the possibility that the initiated investigations could be connected with the recent ransomware attack on the operating company of Colonial Pipeline. Another goal of the U.S. authorities seems to be to exclude U.S.-based citizens from using the Binance cryptocurrency exchange altogether in the future.
As expected, the cryptocurrency markets have reacted to these developments with sniffles. After Bitcoin had fallen to just below the $50,000 per unit mark, it then began a recovery that (as of this written report) has seen it return to levels above $50,700 per unit.
Regardless of how anyone may view things, it turns out that private digital currencies by no means follow a one-way street. Certainly, there have always been major corrections and crashes in the cryptocurrency sector. However, the fact that government agencies like the DoJ and the IRS now seem to be expanding their interventions in this area, and in light of the recent hacking attack, a bad light is being cast on the cryptocurrency markets that could serve as a smokescreen for authorities around the globe to initiate and launch unforeseeable legal action, would make me a bit nervous as a crypto investor these days….