Biden tells Putin Russia must crack down on cybercriminals

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday that he had to “take action” against cyber criminals acting in his country and that the US should

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday that he had to “take action” against cyber criminals acting in his country and that the US reserves the right to “be critical of its people and theirs Defend Infrastructure “. said the White House.

The conversation took place less than a month after the two heads of state and government met in Geneva when Biden warned of ongoing cyberattacks from Russia. A new ransomware attack related to the Russia-based REvil hacking group caused widespread disruption last weekend, affecting up to 1,500 companies.

“I made it very clear to him that when a ransomware operation comes off its soil, even though it is not state sponsored, the United States expects that if we give them enough information, we expect them to act. to act who that is. ”Biden said he spoke to reporters at an event on economic competitiveness. When asked if there would be any consequences, he said, “Yes.”

The call underscored the extent to which the ransomware threat posed by criminal hacking gangs has become an urgent national security challenge for the White House and suggested a possible admission by the government that previous warnings to Putin would not contain criminal activity that is aimed at companies around the world.

A White House statement announcing the hour-long phone call highlighted a US-Russia deal that will allow humanitarian aid to flow into Syria. The dual agenda shows that while Biden promises to hit Russia hard in hacking attacks, there is a desire to avoid escalating tensions as the government looks to Russia for US action in other areas, or at least not to cooperate to interfere. including Syria, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and climate change.

In his talks with Putin about the hacking, the White House said Biden “underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia” and “affirmed that the United States will take all necessary measures to improve its” Population and their critical infrastructure in the face of this ongoing challenge. “

Biden also stressed that he is committed to an ongoing commitment against the wider threat posed by ransomware, the White House said.

Biden told reporters that the US and Russia “now have a regular means of communication in place to be able to communicate with each other when each of us thinks something is happening in another country that affects our home country. I am optimistic.”

The Kremlin said: “Putin noted that despite the willingness of the Russian side to jointly stop criminal information activities, the US authorities have not made any motions in the past month.”

The Kremlin said the two heads of state and government stressed the need for cooperation on cybersecurity, which “needs to be permanent, professional, non-politicized and through dedicated communication channels … and respecting international law”.

The Kremlin statement also noted that Biden and Putin touched the situation in Syria “with particular emphasis on humanitarian issues” and “positively assessed the coordination of Russian and US efforts on this issue, including in the UN Security Council”.

The White House declined to discuss the tone of Biden’s call, despite press secretary Jen Psaki saying it was focusing heavily on the latest breach that cybersecurity researchers said has infected victims in at least 17 countries, mostly through corporations, who remotely manage the IT infrastructure for multiple customers.

Although Biden had previously said the attack caused “minimal damage” and did not appear to target vital infrastructure, the sheer global dimension and the fact that it took place so soon after the Geneva meeting put immediate pressure on the government, sort of to have the answer.

Officials did not immediately announce specific actions they would take or consider. There are few simple options to resolve the threat without risking a conflict that could spiral out of control outside of the realm of cybersecurity.

The Biden government took office after a massive cyber espionage campaign called SolarWinds that put US officials in touch with Russian intelligence officials. But ransomware attacks, which are generally carried out by criminal hacker gangs rather than state sponsored hackers, appear to have dwarfed old-fashioned espionage as a major threat.

An attack in May on a pipeline that supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the east coast caused the company to temporarily cease operations. Colonial Pipeline paid around $ 4.4 million in ransom, though US authorities were able to reclaim a large portion of that amount in a law enforcement operation last month.

Hackers also recently extorted a $ 11 million ransom from JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processor.

Associate press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Zeke Miller and Eric Tucker, The Associated Press

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