Wray: FBI frowns on ransomware payments despite recent trend

Jun 10, 2021, 10:14 AM | Updated: Jun 14, 2021, 9:48 pm
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Judiciar...

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI’s director told lawmakers Thursday that the bureau discourages ransomware payments to hacking groups even as major companies in the past month have participated in multimillion-dollar transactions aimed at getting their systems back online.

“It is our policy, it is our guidance, from the FBI, that companies should not pay the ransom for a number of reasons,” Christopher Wray testified under questioning from members of the House Judiciary Committee.

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.

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.

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. Wray said that in addition to helping companies in that way, the FBI also in certain instances has been able to obtain the encryption keys of hackers and unlock the seized data without any payment being made.

“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 and work closely with law enforcement right out of the gate,” he said. “That’s I think the most important part.”

____

Follow Eric Tucker on http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - More than 100 opponents of the Republican redistricting plans vow to fight the maps at a ral...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling puts spotlight on gerrymandered legislatures

In overturning a half-century of nationwide legal protection for abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Roe v. Wade had been wrongly decided and that it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” in the states. Whether those elected officials are truly representative of the people is a matter […]
17 hours ago
People salute the casket of Hershel "Woody" Williams set up in the first floor rotunda of the West ...
Associated Press

WWII Medal of Honor recipient to lie in state at US Capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced at a memorial on Sunday where Williams was remembered for his courage, humility and selflessness. “He never quit giving back,” said Manchin. That […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

West Africa leaders lift sanctions on 2 junta-led neighbors

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — West African leaders attending a regional summit agreed Sunday to lift sanctions on two neighbors led by military governments that are now promising a return to democratic rule. The summit of the Economic Community of West African States resolved to lift all economic and financial sanctions imposed on Mali and Burkina […]
17 hours ago
People evacuated from the Field's shopping center gather outside,  in Orestad, Copenhagen, Denmark,...
Associated Press

Several dead in Copenhagen mall shooting; suspect arrested

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A gunman opened fired inside a busy shopping mall in the Danish capital on Sunday, killing several people and wounding several others, police said. A 22-year-old Danish man was arrested after the shooting, Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen told reporters, adding there was no indication that anyone else was involved, though […]
17 hours ago
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, briefs the media after a meeting with her counterpart fr...
Associated Press

Germany, Ireland slam UK move toward overriding Brexit deal

LONDON (AP) — Germany and Ireland have condemned the U.K government’s move towards unilaterally rewriting parts of the post-Brexit deal with the European Union. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Irish counterpart Simon Coveney said there was “no legal or political justification” for overriding the agreed trade rules in Northern Ireland. Writing in British newspaper […]
17 hours ago
FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the recent mass shooting in Texas during a news confe...
Associated Press

‘Join us in California’: Newsom targets GOP in Florida ad

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California. “Freedom, it’s under attack in your […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Wray: FBI frowns on ransomware payments despite recent trend