How the FBI got the Colonial Pipeline ransom back

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After Colonial Pipeline Co. was paid on May 8th around $ 4.4 million in cryptocurrency The Federal Criminal Police Office pursued digital money for hackers who held their computer systems hostage.

For the next 19 days, as court records show, a special agent observed on a publicly visible Bitcoin ledger how hackers transferred the 75 Bitcoins to other digital addresses. A transfer of nearly 64 bitcoins on May 27th landed at a virtual address that the FBI had access to, which provided an opportunity to obtain an arrest warrant and attack yourself.

The Justice Department said so on Monday had regained part of the cryptocurrency, which equates to approximately $ 2.3 million of Colonial’s initial ransom.

The operation demonstrates investigators’ growing technical ability to disrupt the financial infrastructure that enables ransomware gangs to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims every year, cybersecurity experts say. Despite the cryptocurrency’s reputation as a a hard-to-understand medium of exchange useful to criminals and other groups operating outside of the traditional financial system, crypto experts say it is sometimes easier to track than hard currencies like the US dollar.

“You can’t hide behind cryptocurrencies,” said Elvis Chan, assistant special agent in charge of the cyber department of the FBI’s San Francisco branch.

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