Biden says he told Putin to take action against cybercrime based in Russia

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President Biden said Friday he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on computer hacking gangs based in his country, but stopped short of holding the Kremlin responsible for a series of ransomware attacks affecting thousands of companies worldwide.

“I made it very clear to him that the United States expects, when ransomware operation is coming from his soil — even though it’s not, not sponsored by the state — we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden told reporters as he left a White House event, adding that the call “went well, and I’m optimistic.”

When asked if there would be “consequences” for the attacks, the president responded “Yes” before exiting the room.

Before departing Joint Base Andrews to spend the weekend in Delaware, Biden told the press pool, “I believe we’re going to get cooperation” when he was asked what consequences Putin could face if the Russian leader does not crack down on cybercriminals.

A White House readout of the call said that Biden “underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia” and added that the US “will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to discuss the tone of the call between Biden and Putin, but reiterated the administration’s belief that while “we don’t have additional or new information suggesting the Russian government directed these attacks … they have a responsibility to take action.”

Friday’s call came one week after a cyberattack by the Russia-based hacking group REvil affected as many as 1,500 businesses in at least 17 countries over the July 4 weekend. The ransomware initially targeted Florida-based Kaseya and spread to other companies, many of which use Kaseya’s software to serve multiple customers.

Biden had said earlier this week that the breach had caused “minimal damage” and did not appear to target vital infrastructure.

The Kaseya attack followed a May breach of Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, that caused it to temporarily halt operations. The pipeline operator paid the DarkSide hacking group a bitcoin ransom worth approximately $4.3 million at the time, much of which was later recovered by federal investigators.

Last month, hackers also extorted an $11 million ransom payment from JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processor.

After Biden met face to face with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, he raised eyebrows by announcing that he had given the Russian leader a list of 16 “critical infrastructure” entities deemed off limits to cyberattacks.

“Of course, the principle is one thing. It has to be backed up by practice,” the president said at the time. “Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.”

With Post wires

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