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Biden holds unexpected call with Putin; threatens him over ransomware Russian hackers

President Joe Biden on June 4, 2021, at Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
July 09, 2021

President Joe Biden spoke to Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday to address the suspected Russian-linked cyberattacks on the U.S. and 16 other nations over the past week, and warned that the U.S. will “take any necessary action” to defend itself.

According to a White House readout of the call, Biden confronted Putin about the attacks and “underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasized that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware.”

Biden also told Putin 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 later told reporters that he expects Russia to act against its cybercriminals, and confirmed there would be consequences.

A senior administration official said during a National Security Council call with reporters on Friday said that action could take places in coming days or weeks.

“We’re not going to telegraph what these actions will be precisely. Some of them will be manifest and visible, some of them may not be. We expect that these will take place in the days and weeks ahead,” the official said.

White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki told reporters during a press conference on Thursday that Biden “sent a clear message” to Putin, saying, “If the Russian government cannot or will not act against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will act.”

Psaki reiterated that the U.S. reserves the option to “crack down” on Russia’s cyber criminals, but would not discuss any deadline for Russia to take action before the U.S. would act.

The FBI released a joint advisory warning with intelligence agencies from the U.S. and the U.K. in which it stated that Russia’s military has been conducting malicious cyber acts against the U.S. from 2019 to 2021.

The advisory said Russia’s military “targeted hundreds of U.S. and foreign organizations using brute force access to penetrate government and private sector victim networks.”