WASHINGTON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that federal law enforcement officials have seized 2.3 million U.S. dollars in cryptocurrency of the ransom paid to hackers who shut down Colonial Pipeline last month.
"Following the money remains one of the most basic, yet powerful tools we have," Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said at a press briefing Monday afternoon.
"Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today's announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises," Monaco said.
The deputy attorney general also highlighted the value of "early notification," thanking Colonial Pipeline for quickly notifying the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) -- the principal investigative arm of the Justice Department, when they learned that they were targeted by DarkSide, the ransomware group responsible for the attack.
In early May, Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a highly publicized ransomware attack resulting in the company taking portions of its infrastructure out of operation, according to the Justice Department.
The shutdown of Colonial Pipeline, which delivers approximately 45 percent of all fuel to the U.S. east coast, pushed up gas prices and led to days of outages at a significant percentage of gas stations in states such as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
"There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI to conceal illicit funds that will prevent us from imposing risk and consequences upon malicious cyber actors," FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said at the press briefing.
"We will continue to use all of our available resources and leverage our domestic and international partnerships to disrupt ransomware attacks and protect our private sector partners and the American public," he added.