President Biden on Friday urged Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to “take steps to disrupt online criminal organizations in his country,” saying that the United States reserves the right to react against hackers using ransomware -Attacks from Russia start, according to a White house reading of a phone call between the two leaders.
The call came after a ransomware attack on the weekend of July 4th in which a Russia-based group called REvil, an acronym for “Ransomware Evil,” hacked a Florida company that provides software to thousands of smaller businesses. Russian hackers were also accused last week of injuring a Republican National Committee contractor.
“Biden underlined the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and stressed his commitment to continued engagement against the wider ransomware threat,” the White House statement said. “President Biden affirmed that in the face of this continuing challenge, the United States will take all necessary measures to defend its people and critical infrastructure.”
The US intelligence services have stated that they do not believe that the Russian government was directly involved in the REvil attack. But Mr Biden and senior officials have repeatedly said that they believe Russia should do more to disrupt the networks of criminals who launch such attacks.
Mr Biden said he told Putin this during a face-to-face meeting in Geneva a few weeks ago. And after meeting with his top cyber officials earlier this week, Mr Biden told reporters that he would “deliver” this news to Mr Putin again, but he did not make it clear when it would happen.
Reading Friday’s call ended the tension.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki provided few details about the call beyond what the White House released in the statement. She declined to say Mr. Putin’s answer during the call.
However, she said the call was evidence that Mr. Biden intended to keep in touch with the leader of Russia frequently, personally and otherwise.
“First of all, I want to say that the President believes in face-to-face diplomacy whenever possible, and leader-to-leader diplomacy when that is not possible, and this is an example of that,” she said.