President Joe Biden said he would “deliver” a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the latest ransomware attacks targeting American businesses, setting up a test of Biden’s ability to balance his pledge to respond firmly to cyber breaches with his goal of developing a stable relationship with Russia.
The administration faces few easy options for a ransomware threat that in recent months has emerged as a major national security challenge, with attacks from Russia-based gangs that have targeted vital infrastructure and extorted multimillion-dollar payments from victims.
The White House says the damage from the latest attack — affecting as many as 1,500 businesses worldwide — appeared minimal, though cybersecurity experts said information remained incomplete. The malicious intrusion exploited a powerful remote-management tool run by Miami-based software company Kaseya. It occurred weeks after Biden made clear to Putin that the U.S. was growing impatient with cyberattacks emanating from Russia.
But Biden finds himself in a difficult position as he seeks to press Putin to crack down on Russian cyber gangs targeting U.S. and international business for financial gain and dial back Kremlin-connected cyber espionage. The administration is mindful that punitive actions against Russia can escalate into tit-for-tat exchanges that heighten tensions between nuclear superpowers.