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NEW YORK — The operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline has confirmed it paid $4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems.

Colonial Pipeline’s CEO Joseph Blount told The Wall Street Journal that he authorized the payment after the ransomware attack because the company didn’t know the extent of the damage.

Bloomberg was the first to report on the deal. They said the hackers provided a decryption tool allowing Colonial to restore the disabled network after the payment was made.

The FBI discourages making payments to ransomware attackers, because that just encourages criminal networks around the globe. But many victims of ransomware attacks opt to pay.