US President, Joe Biden has pressed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin to move against ransomware groups operating in Russia, warning that the United States is prepared to respond if cyberattacks are not stopped.
Biden said this on Friday as both leaders held an hour-long phone call, their first discussion on ransomware attacks since the June 6 Geneva summit.
Ransomware is a breed of malicious software that hackers use to hijack companies’ data and demand payment in return. Cybercriminals have used it to paralyze thousands of American organizations and businesses around the world, setting off a series of increasingly high-profile crises.
Biden’s message to Putin in the call was direct, suggesting a growing impatience over attacks that have disrupted key U.S. sectors.
“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,” Mr Biden told media after the phone call.
Asked whether the US could attack the servers used by the hackers, the Democratic president said: “Yes.”
He said the two governments have now set up a means to communicate on a regular basis “when each of us thinks something is happening in another country that affects the home country.”
“And so it went well. I’m optimistic,” he added.
The United States has not indicated how it plans to respond to the attacks emanating from Russia, but Biden hinted at digital retaliation if Russian cooperation was not forthcoming.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the United States had no new information suggesting the Russian government directed last week’s ransomware attack on Florida IT firm Kaseya by prolific cybercrime syndicate REvil, but said Moscow had a responsibility to take action against such groups operating in Russia.
But a statement from Purin’s office said the US had not contacted Moscow about the cyber-attacks.
“Despite readiness from the Russian side to jointly clamp down on criminal activity in the informational sphere, over the past month no requests have been received from the relevant US departments.”
The Kremlin, however, added that both sides supported further co-operation on cyber-security, which Russia said “must be permanent, professional and non-politicized and should be conducted via special communication channels… and with respect to international law”.