Near the end of a press conference about the Biden administration’s vaccination efforts after their failure to get 70% of the country vaccinated by July 4th, President Biden walked off stage after giving up on attempting to answer a question from a reporter about recent cyberattacks on American businesses.
“Mr. President on the latest ransomware attack, can you tell us if you believe that rises to the level of U.S. retaliation?” a reporter asked Biden.
“I can tell you a couple of things. I received an update from my national security team this morning,” Biden responded. “It appears to have caused minimal damage to U.S. businesses, but we’re still gathering information to the full extent of the attack. And I’m gonna have more to say about this. In the next several days, we’re getting more detailed information. That’s what I can tell you now, and I feel good about our ability to… uh…”
Appearing defeated, Biden then turned and rushed off stage as the reporter asked if Putin was testing him.
Last week, hundreds of American businesses were hit by a ransomware attack that appeared to be linked to Russia.
According to Reuters, the “unusually sophisticated ransomware attack…. hijacked widely used technology management software from a Miami-based supplier called Kaseya. The attackers changed a Kaseya tool called VSA, used by companies that manage technology at smaller businesses. They then encrypted the files of those providers’ customers simultaneously.”
Security firm Huntress Labs said it believed the Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang was behind the attack, the same group believed to be responsible for the cyberattack last month on the meatpacking company JBS, which supplies nearly one-quarter of the United States’ beef and one-fifth of its pork. Russia-linked hackers are also suspected to be responsible for the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, which led to fuel shortages across the East coast.
After the dramatic spike in Russian-linked cyberattacks on the United States following the beginning of the Biden administration, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki initially told reporters questioning the trend that it was the responsibility of private businesses “to protect their own cybersecurity.” During Tuesday’s press conference, however, Psaki claimed that the administration has finally “undertaken expert-level talks that are continuing, and we expect to have another meeting next week, focused on ransomware attacks.”
“I will just reiterate a message that these officials are sending, 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. “Now, in this case, the intelligence community has yet attributed the attack. The cybersecurity community agrees that REvil operates out of Russia with affiliates around the world. So we will continue to allow that assessment to continue, but in our conversations and we have been in touch directly, we are continuing to convey that message clearly.”