London — The group accused of a ransomware attack that crippled the leading U.S. fuel pipeline operator said in a news release on Monday that its goal was to make money and not to sow chaos.
The group calling itself DarkSide has been blamed by the FBI for the digital extortion attempt against Colonial Pipeline, a firm responsible for funneling fuel to a huge chunk of the East Coast.
The ransomware outbreak prompted the company to shut down its network, potentially causing extraordinary disruption as gasoline deliveries dry up.
The terse news release posted to DarkSide’s website on Monday did not directly mention Colonial Pipeline (COLPI.UL) but, under the heading “About the latest news,” it noted that “our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society.”
The statement did not say how much money the hackers are seeking. Colonial Pipeline did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hackers’ statement. The hackers have yet to return repeated messages to their website seeking further comment.
DarkSide’s statement said its hackers would launch checks on fellow cybercriminals “to avoid social consequences in the future.” It added the group was “apolitical” and that observers “do not need to tie us” with any particular government.
The statement, which had several spelling and grammatical errors, appeared geared toward lowering the political temperature around an intrusion that is becoming one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes reported.
Some security experts saw the statement as an indication that the DarkSide hackers had bitten off more than they could chew and that they were now trying to put some distance between themselves and the chaos they had unleashed.
“This isn’t the first time a threat group has gotten in over their heads,” said Lior Div, the co-founder and chief executive of Boston-based security company Cybereason.
He said that ransomware groups like DarkSide depended on being able to squeeze their victims discreetly, without attracting too much law enforcement scrutiny.
“The global backlash is hurting their business,” said Div. “It is the only reason they are offering a mea culpa.”
The crippling of Colonial’s IT system has led to isolated sales restrictions at retail pumps and is pushing benchmark gasoline prices to a three-year high.
Lawmakers have urged stronger protections for critical U.S. energy infrastructure, and the White House has made restarting the fuel network a top priority and organized a federal task force to assess the impact and avoid more severe disruptions.
*Raphael Satter – Reuters