Biden hints at retaliation against Russia for cyber attacks

US President Joe Biden is stepping up pressure on Russia. If Russian President Vladimir Putin does not act against hackers and cyber criminals operating from his country, the US is ready to act against them. President Biden is optimistic and believes his message has reached the Kremlin.

The two world leaders spoke by phone for an hour on Friday about cybersecurity and cybercrime. It was the first time they had met again since June 16, when they met in Geneva, Switzerland. Then the subject of cybersecurity was also discussed, but before the global supply chain attack on ICT service provider, Kaseya had taken place. The general consensus is that the Russian hacker group REvil is responsible for this. So President Biden had a few things to discuss with his Russian counterpart.

The US president made no mistake about it: he is losing patience when it comes to cyberattacks launched from Russia to disrupt the US economy. “I made it very clear to him that the US expects that when a ransomware operation is carried out from its territory, even if the state does not order it, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act against who that is,” Biden told a group of reporters.

The US and Russia have agreed to communicate at regular intervals “when any of us suspect that something is happening in the other country that affects our own country”. Biden says he is optimistic and believes the message got across.

President Biden is even considering retaliating against Russia. A Reuters reporter asked the president if it was wise to attack Russian servers. After a short pause and with a smile on his face he answered ‘yes. However, he doesn’t think it will come to that. “I think we can expect cooperation [from the Russians, ed.],” Biden said.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard that President Biden is preparing cyberattacks against foreign powers. Insiders told The New York Times in March that Biden is furious about the attack on SolarWinds. In this attack, hackers added a backdoor to Orion Network Management Tools, software to monitor corporate networks, databases, servers and web applications. The corporate network of some 100 organizations worldwide was infiltrated in this way, including the US Departments of the Treasury, the Interior, Homeland Security, Economic Affairs, Justice and Defense.

A senior government official thinks Biden is ordering retaliatory actions soon. “We are not going to reveal exactly what those actions will be. Some will be clear and visible, some may not. But we expect them to be implemented in the coming days or weeks,” he told Reuters.

The reason President Biden is reacting so strongly to Russia has everything to do with the supply chain attack that was carried out last Friday. The attackers made use of a vulnerability in the software VSA of ICT service provider Kaseya. Customers use this software to remotely manage their customers’ servers and computer systems. The perpetrators created a backdoor and installed ransomware at about 800 to 1,500 companies and organizations worldwide. The perpetrators have made victims in at least 17 countries, including the Netherlands. This week, the police called on victims to file a report if they hadn’t already done so. In this way, the police and international partners hope to learn more about the working methods of the perpetrators and to track them down.

Earlier this week, President Biden said he was not sure whether the Russians were responsible for the attack. Now he is apparently convinced of that. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also told a news conference this week that Russia has its own responsibility when it comes to cracking down on hackers. “That is and will remain the position of the president and the government,” she said.

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