A US company this week paid 75 Bitcoin ($4.8 million) to Eastern European hackers that had disabled a crucial US East Coast oil pipeline, in another black eye for cryptocurrencies.

Colonial Pipeline made the payment on Monday to the extortionists who had disabled their systems, New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth reported.

(She also noted that the Colonial would have saved about $1 million if it had waited for Elon Musk to tank the crypto market).

The shutdown of the 8,000km pipeline led to the panic buying of gasoline, with US President Joe Biden asking for calm from the White House.

The hackers had actually just disabled Colonial Pipeline’s billing system and “flow computer”, but the company shut down the pipeline because it had no way to account for fuel usage, CNN reported.

The hackers, who showed signs of being inexperienced, issued a statement on Thursday saying things had gotten out of hand, according to Mashable.

“Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society,” read the statement in part. “From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

Bitcoin transactions tracked

Twitter sleuths were trying to deduce which transaction might be the ransomware one. (Bitcoin transfers are public, unlike transactions using blockchains like Monero and ZCash. It wasn’t clear why the hackers didn’t ask for payment in one of those privacy coins). 

There were two possible transactions that fit the bill, but neither revealed much.