WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday that he must “take action” against cybercriminals operating in his country and that the United States reserves the right to “Defend their people and their critical infrastructure,” says the White House.
The conversation took place less than a month after the two leaders met in Geneva, when Biden warned of continued cyber attacks emanating from Russia. A new ransomware attack linked to Russia-based hacking group REvil caused widespread disruption last weekend, affecting up to 1,500 businesses.
The White House said that “President Biden has underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and stressed that he is determined to continue his engagement against the broader threat posed by them. ransomware.
“President Biden reiterated that the United States will take all necessary measures to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this ongoing challenge,” added the White House.
Friday’s call underscored how the ransomware threat from criminal hacker gangs has turned into an urgent national security challenge for the White House, and it suggested a possible concession from the administration that the warnings previous to Putin had failed to curb criminal activity that targeted businesses around the world.
The White House statement announcing the hour-long call with Putin highlighted a US-Russian deal that will allow humanitarian aid to flow into Syria. Both parts of the agenda show how, while Biden is committed to toughening Russia against piracy, there is an inherent desire to avoid escalating tensions as the administration seeks Russia out. cooperates, or at least does not interfere, with US actions in other areas, including Syria, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and climate change.
The White House declined to discuss the tone of Biden’s call, although press secretary Jen Psaki said she had focused significantly on the latest breach, which cybersecurity researchers said they had infected victims in at least 17 countries, largely through companies that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple clients.
While Biden previously said the attack caused “minimal damage” and did not appear to target critical infrastructure, the global scale and the fact that it occurred so soon after the Geneva put immediate pressure on the administration to have some sort of response.
Officials did not immediately announce specific actions they were taking or would consider taking. There are few easy options to resolve the threat without risking conflict that could spiral out of control beyond the realm of cybersecurity.
The Biden administration took office following a massive cyberespionage campaign known as SolarWinds that U.S. officials linked to Russian intelligence operatives. But ransomware attacks, typically carried out by criminal hacker gangs rather than state-sponsored hackers, appear to have eclipsed old-fashioned espionage as a potent threat.
An attack in May on a pipeline that supplies about half of the fuel consumed on the east coast forced the company to temporarily suspend operations. Colonial Pipeline paid around $ 4.4 million in ransom, although U.S. officials were able to recover a large chunk of that sum during a law enforcement operation last month.
Hackers also recently extorted an $ 11 million ransom from JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processor.