White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that while the biggest ransomware attack on record is not yet “fully” attributable to Russia, the Biden administration will “take action” if President Putin doesn’t clamp down on cybercriminals within his country.
“As the president made clear to President Putin when they met, if the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own,” Psaki said during a White House news briefing.
Shortly after the news briefing, Biden weighed in about the $70 million ransomware attack saying it “appears to have caused minimal damage” to U.S. businesses. Apparently reading from prepared notes, Biden said he’ll have more to say about the attack in the coming days, but told reporters Tuesday: “I feel good about our ability to be able to respond.”
Up to 1,500 businesses across the globe may have been affected by the latest ransomware attack that targeted Miami-based software firm Kaseya, as hackers demand $70 million to undo the damage. The hackers targeted trusted support service providers in the hopes of penetrating customer networks. One of Kaseya’s tools was used to infect the companies.
Like President Biden over the weekend, Psaki was careful not to directly blame Russia yet for the Kaseya attack, saying the source “hasn’t been fully attributed yet” by the intelligence community.
Since Biden and Putin met nearly three weeks ago in Geneva, talks between the U.S. government and Russian officials have continued, Psaki said. An “expert-level meeting” between the two sides will take place next week about the issue of ransomware attacks, she said.
Separately, Biden will convene leaders across the U.S. government Wednesday to discuss ransomware attacks and “our overall strategic efforts to counter it.” The group will include officials from the State Department, Justice Department, Homeland Security Department and the intelligence community, Psaki said.
The cybercriminals have asked for $70 million in cryptocurrency. The team at Kaseya has said they have been able to replicate the attack vector and are working on distributing a patch. The company also said they are working with the FBI.
Psaki said while Putin’s government may not directly be responsible for the high-profile attacks that have crippled U.S. companies and critical infrastructure like gas lines earlier this year, Biden expects Putin’s regime to intervene.
“Even with these criminal actors – we’re not saying they’re coming from the government or directed from the government – but even with those actors, they have a responsibility,” Psaki said.
Fox News’ Brittany De Lea contributed to this report.