Russia must crack down on cybercrims: US

·2-min read

US President Joe Biden has told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that he must "take action" against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the US reserves the right to "defend its people and its critical infrastructure," the White House says.

The conversation came less than a month after the two leaders met in Geneva, when Biden warned against continuing cyberattacks emanating from Russia.

A new ransomware attack linked to the REvil hacking group reportedly based in Russia caused widespread disruption last weekend, affecting as many as 1500 businesses.

"I made it very clear to him that the United States expects, when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it was not, not sponsored by the state, we expect him to act," Biden said, speaking to reporters at an event on economic competitiveness.

Asked whether there will be consequences, he said, "Yes".

The White House said in an earlier statement that Biden "underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia" and "reiterated that the United States will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge".

Biden also "emphasised that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware," the White House said.

Biden told reporters that the US and Russia have set up a means of communicating for when either country sees something happening.

"It went well, I'm optimistic," he said.

The Kremlin said "Putin noted that despite the Russian side's readiness to jointly stop criminal activities in the information sphere, US agencies haven't made any requests during the past month".

The Kremlin statement said the two leaders emphasised the need for cooperation on cybersecurity, which it said "must be permanent, professional and non-politicised and should be conducted via special communication channels... and with respect to international law".

The White House declined to discuss the tone of Biden's call, though press secretary Jen Psaki said it did focus significantly on the latest breach, which cybersecurity researchers have said infected victims in at least 17 countries, largely through firms that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple customers.

Though Biden had previously said the attack had caused "minimal damage," and it did not appear to target vital infrastructure, the sheer global scale and the fact that it occurred so soon after the Geneva meeting put immediate pressure on the administration to have some sort of response.

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