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(Reuters) — U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday that he pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to act against groups conducting ransomware attacks from his territory.
In comments made during a signing ceremony in Washington, President Biden said he told President Putin, “When a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is.”
Ransomware - a breed of malicious software which hackers use to hold data hostage in exchange for payment - has become an increasingly powerful scourge for businesses across the world. Cybercriminals have used it to paralyze thousands of American organizations, setting off a series of increasingly high-profile crises.
Many of the gangs carrying out the ransomware attacks are alleged by American officials and cybersecurity researchers to be operating out of Russia with the awareness, if not the approval, of the government there.
President Biden had warned President Putin about cyberattacks in person during a summit in Geneva last month, telling his Russian counterpart that disruptive intrusions against critical infrastructure should be off limits.
In his remarks Friday, President Biden said that he and his Russian counterpart had “set up a means of communication now on a regular basis to be able to communicate with one another when each of us thinks something is happening in another country that affects the home country.”
President Biden said he was optimistic following the call.
“It went well,” he said.
Internet crime has bedeviled U.S.-Russian relations since the 1990s, when American cyber experts first began complaining of spam emails from Russia. But the sheer disruptive power of ransomware has taken the issue to a new level.
In May, cybercriminals alleged to be operating from Russia froze the operations of critical fuel transport group Colonial Pipeline, setting off gasoline shortages, price spikes and panic buying on the East Coast.
The following month, a different Russia-linked group struck meatpacker JBS, briefly disrupting its food supply chain. Last week, the same hackers claimed responsibility for a mass ransomware outbreak centered on Florida IT firm Kaseya.
The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Wednesday it has introduced a ransomware module in its Cyber Security Evaluation Tool.