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Biden tells Putin Russia must crack down on cybercriminals

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By Euronews, AP
President Joe Biden speaks about the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the East Room of the White House, July 8, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks about the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the East Room of the White House, July 8, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Evan Vucci   -  

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

The conversation came less than a month after the two leaders met in Geneva, when Biden warned against continuing cyberattacks on U.S. businesses and infrastructure emanating from Russia. A new ransomware attack linked to the REvil hacking group based in Russia caused widespread disruption last weekend, affecting as many as 1,500 businesses.

The White House said “President Biden underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasised that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware.

“President Biden 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,” the White House added.

The latest conversation between the two world leaders followed a series of ransomware attacks on vital infrastructure and major corporations that have elevated the threat to an urgent national security problem for the Biden administration.

A May attack on a pipeline that supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast caused the company to temporarily halt operations. Colonial Pipeline paid roughly $4.4 million (€3.7 million) in ransom, and U.S. authorities were able to claw back a large portion of that sum in a law enforcement operation last month.

Hackers also extorted an $11 million (€9.3 million) ransom payment from JBS SA, the world's largest meat processor.

In its own readout of the phone call, the Kremlin wrote that "in the context of recent reports  a series of cyberattacks ostensibly made from Russia territory, Vladimir Putin noted that despite Russia's willingness to curb criminal manifestations in the information space through a concerted effort, no inquiries on these issues have been received from US agencies in the last month."

"At the same time, considering the scale and seriousness of the challenges in this area, Russia and the US must maintain permanent, professional and non-politicised cooperation," the statement also read.