Friday’s call came just three weeks after attacks on ransomware attacks dominated their first Geneva summit. Immediately after this meeting, Mr Biden said he had told the Russian president that he would react “in a cyber way” against Russia if Putin did not act against groups operating in its territory.
But the three-hour meeting was largely a general discussion of the issue and an attempt to convince Mr. Putin said that the presence of the criminal cyber groups on Russian networks was not in Moscow’s interest either. By calling right after REvil’s latest attack, he essentially set up a test of Mr. Putin̵
While the US and Russia have long spread over state-sponsored attacks – including the SolarWinds espionage operation from Russia’s elite SVR intelligence agency or the Russian military intelligence unit’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and its release of embarrassing emails in 2016 – ransomware attacks are of a second character. Administration officials fear that if they are not addressed, they could paralyze key sectors of the U.S. economy. And they suspect that Russian authorities tolerate the groups – and sometimes dive into their talent pool for intelligence and other cyber operations.
The White House accused a Russian ransomware group, called DarkSide, of the attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which stopped supplies of gasoline and jet fuel up the east coast last spring. REvil is believed to have been behind the attack on one of the country’s largest meat processing companies, JBS, which briefly closed production at the end of May. The company paid REvil $ 11 million in cryptocurrency.
But REvil’s attack over the holiday on July 4 was an escalation, officials said not only for its timing after the Geneva summit, but because the attack was unusually advanced in technique and aggressive in scope. Instead of targeting a company directly, REvil breached a Florida technology company that has high-level access to technology companies that serve thousands of other companies. Had the company, Kaseya, not been attacked quickly, the effects could have been catastrophic, say officials and cybersecurity experts.
Sir. Biden’s challenge to Mr. Putin could pose a major credibility test in the coming weeks – and further escalate a series of cold war-like confrontations between the United States and Russia, which are now fighting in cyberspace rather than over the Berlin Wall.
Until recently, the United States has largely treated ransomware as a criminal problem and accuses leading actors if it could identify them. Few have ever seen the inside of a U.S. courtroom.