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Colonial Pipeline CEO: Ransom payment among my 'toughest decisions'

Cybersecurity Colonial Pipeline
Posted at 5:11 AM, Jun 08, 2021

WASHINGTON — The CEO of Colonial Pipeline spoke to lawmakers on Tuesday about the ransomware attack on his company last month.

During his testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Commissions, Joseph Blount said paying the hackers was the right thing to do after the May 7 attack caused significant fuel shortages along the east coast.

Blount's testimony comes a day after the Justice Department revealed it had recovered the majority of the $4.4 million ransom paid to the hackers, the Associated Press reported.

During his testimony, the Senate panel asked Blount what would've happened if his company didn't pay the hackers.

He responded, "That’s an unknown we probably don’t want to know. And it’s an unknown we probably don’t want to play out in a public forum.”

According to the AP, Colonial Pipeline negotiated with the hackers on May 7, the day of the attack, and then agreed to pay them a ransom of 75 bitcoin.

ABC News reported that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman asked Blount why the company would pay the ransom because according to the FBI website, the agency discourages paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. After all, it doesn’t guarantee they would recover the data stolen.

Blount responded that the company saw paying it would allow the flow of fuel to resume.

In his opening statement, Blount said paying the hackers "was the hardest decision."

"I made the decision to pay and I made the decision to keep the information about the payment as confidential as possible," Blount said. "It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my 39 years in the energy industry and I know how critical our pipeline is to the country and I put the interest of the country first."

A second hearing is set for Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.