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The FBI confirmed Monday that the Russia-based DarkSide ransomware gang was responsible for compromising the Colonial Pipeline networks. However, to date the US government has not reported any evidence that the gang acted at the behest of or on behalf of the Russian government.
“Our intelligence community is looking for links with nation-state actors, and if we find this additional information we will investigate further,” Anne Neuberger, assistant national security advisor on cyber and emerging technologies, told reporters at the White House press conference Monday.
Wholesale gasoline prices, which had originally risen after the attack, returned profits and traded almost unchanged from prices seen the week before the attack was published.
Colonial, which has enlisted the services of leading cybersecurity firm FireEye, has not asked the government for help in responding to the digital intrusion, Neuberger said. When asked Monday whether this would reduce the government’s visibility into the threat, Neuberger said the Biden government “is glad they are confident they can fix the incident”.
The colonial hack has rekindled the debate over whether ransomware victims should pay to regain access to their data and whether the government should ban such ransom payments. The FBI and other agencies usually discourage victims from paying a ransom, but they also recognize the difficult position it would put them in.
Neuberger declined to give Colonial any form of public advice during Monday’s briefing.
“We are aware that victims of cyber attacks are often confronted with a very difficult situation and have to weigh the cost-benefit ratio if they have no other choice to pay a ransom,” said Neuberger. “Colonial is a private company and we will postpone any information about your decision to pay them a ransom.”
Speaking at Monday’s briefing, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Homeland Security Advisor at the White House, said the Department of Energy had spoken to state and local authorities to assess fuel supplies and other effects of the shutdown.
“There are no supply disruptions and those [DOE] is currently conducting an analysis of possible supply disruptions, ”said Sherwood-Randall. “We’re working with other agencies to look at how we can get supplies to a location where they may be needed if it turns out to be a shortage.”
The energy department has also convened representatives from the oil, natural gas and electrical industries to share details about ransomware attacks and recommend measures to mitigate further incidents, Sherwood-Randall said.