FBI Director Chris Wray on Wednesday pleaded with public companies and other hacking victims to avoid paying ransom, saying he fears it will only embolden cyber criminals to ramp up future attacks.

FBI Director Wray testifies before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray prepares to testify before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2021. Sarah Silbiger/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON: FBI Director Chris Wray on Wednesday pleaded with public companies and other hacking victims to avoid paying ransom, saying he fears it will only embolden cyber criminals to ramp up future attacks.

“In general, we would discourage paying the ransom because it encourages more of these attacks, and frankly, there is no guarantee whatsoever that you are going to get your data back,” Wray testified before a U.S. Senate appropriations panel.

The Justice Department has disclosed it managed to help the Colonial Pipeline Co recover some US$2.3 million in cryptocurrency ransom it paid to hackers – an attack that led to widespread shortages at gas stations on the East Coast.

The FBI was able to recover those funds because it had a private key that it was able to use to unlock a bitcoin wallet holding most of the money. It was unclear how the FBI managed to access the key.

Bitcoin seizures by the federal government are relatively uncommon, but authorities have been stepping up their expertise in tracking the flow of digital money.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Howard Goller)

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