President Biden tells Putin Russia must crack down on cybercriminals

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President Joe Biden speaks about the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks about the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 emphasized 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 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 ransom payment from JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processor.

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