Biden tells Putin the U.S. will take ‘any necessary action’ after latest massive ransomware attack, White House says – The Washington Post

Biden tells Putin the U.S. will take ‘any necessary action’ after latest massive ransomware attack, White House says – The Washington Post

President Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that the United States will take “any necessary action” to defend U.S. infrastructure after Russia-based hackers carried out the largest known ransomware attack to date, afflicting up to 1,500 companies, schools and hospitals around the world. Biden has been under increasing pressure to counter such costly, brazen assaults — pressure that spiked last weekend after the latest attack, which was claimed by a criminal group called REvil operating largely out of Russia.In a phone call, the president warned Putin that Russia must take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating there, or the United States would impose consequences, the White House said in a statement.“I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden said after the statement was released.Asked later by a reporter if there will be consequences, Biden said, “yes.” The president did not elaborate.Biden noted that Washington and Moscow now have a means to communicate when an issue arises. “So it went well,” Biden said. “I’m optimistic.” Pressure grows on Biden to curb ransomware attacks Friday’s call came after a meeting between the two leaders three weeks ago in Geneva, during which Biden delivered a similar warning.Once considered largely a criminal menace, ransomware attacks are now treated by the federal government as a national security threat. An assault on Colonial Pipeline in May led to long lines and gasoline shortages in much of the Southeast, and a June attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier , sparked fears of beef and pork shortages.Though ransomware attacks have increased over the last 18 months, “this is the first time … that there has been this level of engagement at this level,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, defending Biden’s approach.“Let me say that the president is a believer in face-to-face diplomacy when possible and leader-to-leader diplomacy when that’s not possible,” she said. “ … And certainly the president knew, even when they met in Geneva, that there would be a need for ongoing discussions and engagements.” The anatomy of a ransomware attack After the Geneva summit, the two sides began strategic consultations involving White House cyber and regional experts and Russian officials. Another virtual meeting is scheduled for next week.Psaki declined to say what actions the United States might take if Moscow fails to curb the attacks. “I don’t think anyone expects [the president] or us to preview our punches,” she said.According to the Kremlin’s readout of their call, Putin told Biden that Russia had expressed willingness to cooperate on the issue, but that U.S. law enforcement agencies had not approached Russian authorities about the recent cyberattacks.A senior administration official disputed that. “We have relayed multiple specific requests for action on cyber criminals” to Moscow, “and been clear about what Russia’s responsibility is with regard to taking action, including again today,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.Even as Biden’s remarks raise the prospect that the United States will take decisive action to punish Moscow if the attacks continue, administration officials sought to temper expectations of a quick cessation of attacks.“This is a broad campaign and won’t have an immediate on-off effect like a light switch,’’ the official said, “but we’re going to have to stay on top of it over a long period of time.”The official alluded to Biden’s statement in Geneva that “we’ll find out within six months to a year” whether the engagement with Russia is working.“The president really meant what he said … when he said that our assessment of this process, and our evaluation of Russia’s actions, would take time,” the official said.The White House strategy extends beyond the bilateral talks. “This is really about our own resilience as a nation in the face of these attacks,” the official said. “It’s about addressing the challenges posed by cryptocurrency, which provides fuel for these sorts of transactions. It’s about ensuring that our allies and our partners are working with us collaboratively and upping their own game when it comes to resilience.” Robyn Dixon contributed to this report.

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