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The DOJ Strikes Back, Turns the Tables Against 'Darkside' Ransomware Hackers

Oil storage tanks owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company in Linden, N.J. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WASHINGTON – In a major cybersecurity breakthrough, the United States Department of Justice has seized millions of dollars in ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to Russia-based cybercriminal gang Darkside. 

The DOJ was able to recover $2.3 million Colonial paid to Darkside, about half of the full amount, in a rare win against ransomware hackers. 

"Today we turned the tables on Darkside," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco at a news conference Monday. 

The hack shut down pipeline operations for six days, causing gas shortages and price hikes up and down the East Coast. 

The DOJ was able to recover the money by hacking Darkside's Bitcoin wallet. 

"We deprived a cybercriminal enterprise of the object of their activity, their financial proceeds and funding," said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate at that same news conference. 

These kinds of attacks are on the rise; just last week the nation's largest meat supplier, JBS, was targeted. The Solarwinds attack on U.S. government entities is another example that further highlights vulnerabilities and Russia's involvement. 

The federal government is warning all cybercriminals they will be relentless in fighting these crimes and urging U.S. businesses to harden their protections. 

"Pay attention now," said Monaco. "Invest resources now. Failure to do so could be the difference to being secure now or a victim later." 

The Biden administration says it's planning a response to the Russian government for harboring these cybercriminals. President Biden is expected to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin next week. 

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