WH claims right to “strike” in response to cyberattacks

WASHINGTON DC (Agencies): President Biden spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and urged him to take action to disrupt criminal groups operating in Russia that are behind recent ransomware attacks in the United States.

Biden also warned that the U.S. would “take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge,” according to a White House readout.

The conversation came after a ransomware attack last week on software company Kaseya impacted up to 1,500 companies, many of which were vulnerable small businesses in the U.S. Cybersecurity experts have attributed the group to the Russian-based “REvil” cyber criminal group. However the Biden administration has not yet formally attributed the attack.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing Friday that the U.S. government does not have new information suggesting the Russian government directed recent ransomware attacks but added, “we also know and we also believe that they have a responsibility … to take action.”

Psaki declined to specify what options are on the tab-le. Biden previously levied sanctions against Russia as a consequence to the SolarWinds hack in April.

“His intent was to make clear and reiterate again that attacks by criminal groups, ransomware attacks by criminal groups on entities in the US is not acceptable and that we reserve the right to take action,” Psaki said. The call came a month after Biden and Putin met in person in Geneva to discuss a range of issues, with cybersecurity concerns at the top of the list.

“President Biden also spoke with President Putin about the ongoing ransomware attacks by criminals based in Russia that have impacted the United States and other countries around the world,” the White House readout of Friday’s conversation between the two leaders said. “President Biden underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasized that he is committed to continued engag-ement on the broader threat posed by ransomware.”

The readout also said that the two leaders “commended the joint work of their respective teams following the U.S.-Russia Summit that led to the unanimous renewal of cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria today in the UN Security Council.”

Psaki said that the call was an example of Biden’s willingness to work with Russia on areas of agreement while being “being clear and candid and forthright when there is disagreement.”

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