US Questions Whether Businesses Should Pay Cyberattack Ransom

In the wake of a situation last weekend in which a group of hackers shut down a U.S. oil pipeline, the White House is thinking about whether there’s merit to making ransom payments to cyberattackers, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

The oil pipeline situation highlighted a serious threat to critical infrastructure, according to FT.

The FBI has long been opposed to making ransom payments to attackers saying that doing so would only encourage more ransomware attacks, FT reported. Hackers could be inspired to commit more crimes and take control of data or computer servers in order to elicit ransom money if the government gives in.

“Victims of cyberattacks often face a very difficult situation, and they have to just balance … the cost-benefit when they have no choice with regard to paying a ransom,” said Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, per FT. “That is why, given the rise in ransomware and given, frankly, the troubling trend we see often targeting companies who have insurance and may be rich targets, that we need to look thoughtfully at this area.”

She said the President Joe Biden administration is considering its approach to how ransomware will be dealt with, also adding that companies with encrypted data sometimes have trouble recovering that information after attacks, FT reported.

By shutting down the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, the attackers claimed one of the biggest targets yet, according to FT. The pipeline transports petrol, diesel and jet fuel along the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic coast, and the system has the capacity to supply near 15 percent of the total U.S. liquid fuel demand.

On Monday (May 10), the FBI identified DarkSide, an organization believed to be run from Russia and by an “experienced” group of online criminals, as being responsible for the attack, FT reported.

DarkSide is not the only player in the ransomware game, though, and attacks are becoming more frequent as the groups continue to succeed in getting richer, PYMNTS reported.