The Biden administration on Thursday said it planned to launch a task force aimed at cracking down on hackers responsible for ransomware attacks after it was reported that Colonial Pipeline paid millions of dollars to free up its systems from cybercriminals.
"Our Justice Department has launched a new task force dedicated to prosecuting ransomware hackers to the full extent of the law," Biden said in remarks on Thursday.
The president also noted that the government was going to pursue efforts that would interfere with the ability of ransomware networks to operate.
Those actions come one day after the president signed an executive order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, calling for collaboration between the public and private sectors to strengthen practices, roll out technologies and increase resilience.
Bloomberg News first reported on Thursday that Colonial had paid $5 million in ransom to the hackers who targeted their infrastructure, belonging to a criminal enterprise known as DarkSide.
Biden declined to comment on that report on Thursday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Thursday that companies should not pay ransom in cyberattacks.
The White House also said on Thursday that it was in direct communication with Moscow regarding the Russia-based DarkSide group to impart that countries need to take decisive action against ransomware networks. Biden said the administration does not believe the Russian government was involved in the attack.
The disruption created fuel shortages in parts of the U.S. Even though the pipeline is back online, shortages may persist in these areas for a bit longer as the product is delivered.
"We want to be clear, will not feel the effects at the pump immediately," Biden explained on Thursday. "This is not like flicking on a light switch. This pipeline is 5,500 miles long. It had never been fully shut down its entire history."