Biden ‘optimistic’ after call pressing Putin to crack down on Russian-based cyberattacks

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call Friday that the United States “will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure,” as cyberattacks against American companies originating in Russia have continued.

Biden said afterward that he is “optimistic” after speaking with Putin and that the two nations have increased communications to address attacks like these.

During the call, the White House said that 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 in a statement.

The call came just weeks after the two leaders met in person for the first time since Biden took office. During their meeting, Biden warned Putin to curb the cyberattacks and gave him a list of 16 items he considered to be critical infrastructure that is off-limits. Biden said he warned Putin that the U.S. would respond if the cyberattacks continued.

Pressure for Biden to respond more aggressively to Putin ramped up this week after a ransomware attack by the Russian-language group REvil, which is believed to operate inside that country, hacked Kaseya, an international company that remotely controls programs for companies, impacting at least 200 U.S. companies over the Fourth of July weekend. The REvil hack is being called the largest ransomware attack in history.

During their in-person meeting, Putin denied Russia’s role in recent cyberattacks against U.S. institutions.

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At the time of the meeting, Biden said that the success of their talks would be determined in the next few months based on whether Putin’s confrontational posture toward the U.S. improved.

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