- Biden told Putin the U.S. would take “any necessary action” following the latest ransomware attack.
- The call comes as Biden has faced calls to retaliate against Russia over a string of recent cyberattacks.
- Biden warned Putin that he would hold Russia accountable for the attacks that originated there even if they are not Kremlin-linked.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday the U.S. would take “any necessary action” to defend its people and infrastructure following the latest ransomware attack by a Russia-linked group that compromised as many as 1,500 businesses worldwide.
In a call with Putin, Biden “underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasized that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware,” according to a White House statement.
The conversation comes as Biden has faced calls to retaliate against Russia over a ransomware attack on the software provider Kaseya, the latest in a string of breaches on U.S companies. The Russia-linked hackers known as REvil took responsibility for the attack, although U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly said who was responsible for the assault.
The president has warned Putin that he would hold Russia accountable for the cyberattacks that originated there even if they are not directly connected to the Kremlin.
“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 him to act if we give him enough information to act on who that is,” Biden told reporters on Friday.
He said there would be consequences if the Russian president did not act to curb the ongoing cyberattacks on the U.S. and elsewhere but seemed to predict it wouldn’t come down to that.
“I believe we’re going to get cooperation,” Biden said before boarding Air Force One when asked about the consequences Putin could face if he doesn’t step up.
As many as 1,500 companies across the U.S., Europe and Asia were affected by the the latest attack. The Republican National Committee said its contractor Synnex was among those hacked but said no RNC data was compromised.
The White House would not elaborate on the nature of possible future actions against Russia. “Some of them will be manifest and visible, some of them may might not be,” said a senior Biden administration official who was authorized to discuss the White House’s position on the condition of anonymity. The White House has sought “multiple, specific requests for action” on cyber-criminals from the Kremlin, the official said.
The Biden administration has been under pressure to address the rise in attacks on critical infrastructure and U.S. corporations, including an attack on the nation’s largest fuel pipeline in May. The president raised the issue with Putin when the two met in Geneva last month and said he demanded the Russian president crack down on such attacks against the U.S.
At the time, Biden told reporters he gave Putin a list of 16 critical sectors that would warrant a response if attacked and that it would take six months to a year to know “whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.”
REvil is known for extorting $11 million from meat processor JBS last month. Security researchers said its ability to evade anti-malware safeguards in this attack and its apparent exploitation of a previously unknown vulnerability on Kaseya servers reflect the growing financial muscle of REvil and a few dozen other top ransomware gangs, whose success helps them afford the best digital burglary wares. Such criminals infiltrate networks and paralyze them by scrambling data, extorting their victims.
Contributing: Associated Press. Reach Courtney Subramanian at @cmsub and Joey Garrison at @joeygarrison.