President Biden gathered senior advisors in the Situation Room on Wednesday to develop a strategy to counter the ever-brazen ransomware attacks by hackers based in Russia.
The meeting came as several recent attacks test the red lines set by President Biden during his summit with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin last month.
The White House did not provide a list of attendees for Wednesday’s 9:30 a.m. meeting, but the key players came from agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.
On Sunday, a Russia-based cybercriminal organization called REvil claimed responsibility for a long weekend holiday cyber attack that spread to 800 to 1,500 companies around the world. It was one of the largest attacks in history, with hackers shutting down systems until a ransom is paid, security researchers said.
Just days later, the Republican National Committee announced Tuesday that one of its technology providers, Synnex, had been hacked. While the extent of the attempted violation remained unclear, the committee said none of its data had been accessed.
First indications indicated that the perpetrator was the Russian secret service SVR, according to investigators in the case. The SVR is the group that hacked the Democratic National Committee six years ago and recently carried out the SolarWinds attack that penetrated more than half a dozen government agencies and many of the largest US corporations.
It was unclear whether the REvil and RNC attacks were related. But they are a test for Mr Biden just three weeks after he held his first meeting as President with Mr Putin demanding that the Russian leader curtail ransomware activities against the United States. At the meeting, Mr Biden later said, he presented Mr Putin with a list of 16 critical sectors of the American economy that, if attacked, would provoke a reaction – although he was reluctant to see what that reaction would be.
The latest attacks appeared to cross many lines that Mr Biden said he would no longer tolerate. In last year’s election campaign, he made Russia “aware” that, as President, he would act aggressively against any interference in the American elections. He then called Putin in April to warn him of impending economic sanctions in response to the SolarWinds violation.
Synnex’s likely SVR violation left it unclear whether the RNC was the target or whether it was accidental collateral damage in a wider hack that may not have been targeted against the Republicans.