President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and urged him to take action against cybercriminals in his country who continue to disrupt life across the U.S. through ransomware attacks, according to NBC News.
The report said Biden made the call following an attack against the Florida-based international management company Kaseya, which handles programming for as many as 200 U.S. companies and cities. The attack on Kaseya has left the community of Leonardtown, Maryland, completely offline, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
A Russian ransomware group called REvil is demanding Leonardtown pay $45,000 per computer to get them back online, The Post reported.
The city will not pay the ransom to get back control of its systems and is pursuing other avenues to get back online.
“Everything shut down,” Leonardtown administrator Laschelle McKay told the outlet. “You couldn’t open any document, you’re completely locked from all your files.”
Other cities have been affected by the brazen and continued attacks in recent weeks and months.
Biden reportedly told Putin the U.S. would “take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge,” NBC News reported.
He also “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.”
The president was left feeling “optimistic” about his call to Putin, according to the report.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said during her daily media briefing that Russia has a “responsibility to take action.”
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Psaki said the administration does not believe the country’s government is behind the attacks from REvil. She added Biden is practicing “leader-to-leader diplomacy” by engaging with Putin.
The two world leaders met last month in Geneva, Switzerland, but just how productive those talks were remains a mystery.
Biden reportedly spoke to Putin about the cyberattacks and gave him a list of 16 U.S. critical infrastructure sectors that should be off-limits — a move that was criticized by Republicans.
“President Biden can’t help signaling weakness, even by accident,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said afterward, according to The Washington Times. “All of America’s critical infrastructure is off-limits to Putin.”
The Russian government has denied it is involved in the attacks.
The attack on Kaseya and its clients across the country comes months after another group believed to be based in Russia took the Colonial Pipeline out of commission for a number of weeks this past spring.
The attack resulted in major gas shortages mainly in the Southeastern United States and in Washington.
Blount said he was not comfortable sending money to hackers overseas but he had no other recourse. Thus far, the U.S. government has not stepped in to assist American companies affected by the continued attacks on infrastructure.
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