WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will raise the issue of cyberattacks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their joint summit in Switzerland later this month amid a rise in ransomware attacks targeting American businesses by Russian-based hacking groups.
Biden told reporters Tuesday the White House is “looking closely” at whether to retaliate against Russia for the increase in ransomware attacks, though he also said he didn’t believe Putin was testing him ahead of their summit.
“Responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a Wednesday press briefing, adding that the U.S. is “not taking any options off the table in terms of how we may respond” to cyberattacks.
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Biden will meet with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16. The face-to-face meeting with the Russian president will take place at the end of Biden’s first oversees trip since taking office, where he will attend a meeting of the G7 in the United Kingdom and NATO in Brussels before seeing Putin.
Biden’s raising of ransomware attacks with Putin come as relations between the two nations have worsened. Biden has repeatedly said he wants a “stable, predictable relationship” with Russia after years of tense relations between the two nations.
A ransomware attack is a type of hacking whereby a cybercriminal will infiltrate a computer system and compromise data or operations. The hacker will then require financial compensation from the owner of the system for the data or systems to be returned to the owner.
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High-profile ransomware attacks have increased over the past several weeks. In early May, a cyberattack scrambled systems at Colonial Pipeline, causing a round of panic buying of gasoline across the Southeastern U.S.. On Tuesday, the world’s largest meatpacking firm, JBS USA, was hacked by a ransomware group.
The Colonial Pipeline hack has been attributed to DarkSide, a Russian-based hacking group not affiliated with the Russian government, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community.
Officials have attributed the JBS hack to the Russian cybercrime group REvil, according to Bloomberg, though Psaki declined to confirm the culprit of the attack.
“This attack is a reminder about the importance to private sector entities of hardening their cybersecurity and ensuring they take the necessary steps to prepare for this threat, which we’ve seen rising even over the last few weeks,” Psaki added.
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The White House has launched a “rapid strategic review” of policies around ransomware, Psaki added. The press secretary said the administration would begin taking steps targeting the “disruption of ransomware infrastructure,” while working closely with the private sector.
The administration will also examine the role of cryptocurrency ransomware attacks in an effort “to find and pursue criminal transactions” and review the administration’s own ransomware policies.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.