WASHINGTON, DC — A Senate panel questioned the head of Colonial Pipeline Tuesday as lawmakers probed the rise in ransomware attacks and the role the government is taking in responding to the threats.
“We are deeply sorry for the impact that this attack had,” said Colonial Pipeline President and CEO Joseph Blount.
Blount defended the company’s decision to pay more than $4 million in ransom.
The FBI has said it does not support giving money to cyber attackers.
The FBI posted a warning on its website saying: “Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back. It also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”
“I made the decision to pay, and I made the decision about the payment as confidential as possible,” Blount said. “It was the hardest decision I’ve made in my 39 years in the energy industry, and I know how critical our pipeline is for the country, and I put the interest of the country first… I believe with all my heart it was the right choice to make.”
Blount said the company contacted the FBI within hours of the attack.
The Department of Justice also helped Colonial Pipeline recover more than $2 million in bitcoin from the ransom payment.
“Would you agree with the statement that the federal government should be doing more to protect companies like yours from cyber-attacks?” asked Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
“As a private entity, we know we have a responsibility as well,” said Blount. “Private industry alone can’t do everything. Can’t solve everything totally by themselves, so it’s the partnership between private and government that is very important.”
Blount said it’s a critical need at a time when these cyber attacks are on the rise.
“No one is safe from these attacks, including us,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“Inaction is simply not an option,” said Peters.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing legislation that would require companies to report cyberattacks to the federal government.
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