Technology FBI Director Christopher Wray Says Companies Shouldn't Pay Ransom to Hackers, Contact Agency Instead
Hackers want millions in ransom. American schools are considering the cost.
Cybercriminals have ramped up attacks against public school districts, underscoring how ransomware has become a daily scourge preying on Americans almost daily.Like most parents, Sanders has been performing a daily juggling act. When she's not teaching special education classes at Buffalo Public Schools, she and her husband are usually making sure their three kids are attending their remote classes.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that companies should not make ransomware payments to hackers but to contact the agency for help instead to restore stolen data, the Associated Press reported.
Wray's comments came during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on thefollowing cyberattacks on the Colonial Pipeline that transports nearly half of the East Coast's fuel and on the global meat-packing company JBS SA.
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"It is our policy, it is our guidance, from the FBI, that companies should not pay the ransom for a number of reasons," said Wray, who mentioned ways the FBI can help, such as trying to obtain encryption keys of hackers so that any data seized can be restored without a ransom payment.
"There are a whole bunch of things we can do to prevent this activity from occurring, whether they pay the ransom or not, if they communicate and coordinate with law enforcement right out of the gate. That's the most important part," he added.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Major companies in the past month have participated in multimillion-dollar transactions aimed at getting their systems back online.
Besides the fact that such payments can encourage additional cyberattacks, victims may not automatically get back their data despite forking over millions, "and that's not unknown to happen," Wray said.
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And a pipeline shutdown could lead to your paying more at the pump.Send tips to email@example.com or tweet me at @BrentGriffiths.
In ransomware attacks, hackers lock up and encrypt a victim's data and demand a payment in order to return it. They have proliferated in scale over the past year, targeting not just hospitals and police agencies but also critical infrastructure and vital industries.
Some recent major corporate targets have responded by paying the ransom, fearing that a prolonged shutdown of their businesses could have catastrophic consequences for the country and disrupt crucial supply chains.
Colonial Pipeline, which transports about 45 percent of fuel consumed on the East Coast, last month paid a ransom of 75 bitcoin—then valued at roughly $4.4 million—in hopes of getting its system back online.
On Wednesday, JBS SA, the world's largest meat processing company, revealed that it had paid the equivalent of $11 million to hackers who broke into its computer system last month.
Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount told lawmakers this week that the decision to pay the ransom was the hardest choice of his career but ultimately the right thing to do, particularly given the gas shortages that surfaced within days in parts of the United States. He said that although the key the company was given to decrypt its data did not work perfectly, Colonial has resumed operations after a brief shutdown.
Should Colonial Pipeline have paid a ransom to DarkSide hackers?
The company's nearly $5 million ransom payment to hackers defies the conventional wisdom that companies shouldn't give in to cybercriminals' demands.In a ransomware attack, criminals encrypt a company’s data and demand an extortion payment in exchange for a special key that will restore the company’s access to its files. Colonial Pipeline’s decision to pay the hackers flies in the face of most official recommendations. US policy—and the standing advice of many other national governments and intelligence agencies—is clear: Companies should not pay ransoms to hackers.
The Justice Department has said it was able to recover the majority of the ransomware payment after locating the virtual wallet used by the hackers.
Colonial Pipeline admits paying ransom against FBI advice. It represents one of the most insurmountable cybersecurity problems .
Paying the ransom in the DarkSide attack against FBI wishes illustrates one of the nation's most insurmountable cybersecurity problems, experts say.“Here’s the point: We cannot stop U.S. companies from paying ransom,” lamented one Justice Department lawyer involved in cybercrime and security issues.