Crippled by a ransomware attack, Colonial ended up paying a $4.4 million ransom in bitcoins to free itself from its attackers. In the meantime, the U.S. Eastern Seaboard suffered from gasoline shortages.
What is ransomware? It is malicious software that takes control of a computer, say, by encrypting files or threatening to publicly expose data. The ransomware operator only releases that control after receiving a ransom payment, usually Bitcoin but sometimes Monero.
While Colonial's attack grabbed headlines, the ransomware problem has been growing for years. In a recent survey by Sophos of 5,400 heads of IT at corporations and government agencies around the world, 6.6% reported paying a ransom in 2020. The average price? That would be $170,000, which works out to tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions of ransoms paid!