The FBI’s surprise announcement on Monday that it had confiscated part of the ransom Colonial Pipeline paid to criminal hackers came as a double shock.

On the one hand, it was big news that the US government had eased its cybersecurity Muscle on behalf of the owner and operator of the country’s largest fuel pipeline, takes over a Bitcoin account and marks the first ever public recovery of funds from a well-known ransomware gang.

On the other hand, it raised a question: why hadn’t the US done this before?

Ransomware has been a pervasive and persistent problem for years, but it has resulted in poor government action. And while reclaiming some of the ransom represented a new front for the US, it also points to the relatively limited ability to deter hackers.

Philip Reiner, the CEO of the Institute for Security and Technology, a San Francisco think tank that produced a groundbreaking report on anti-ransomware guidelines, praised the FBI’s move as an important one, but said it was difficult to assume …

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