US President Joseph Biden plans to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on ransomware attackers based in his country who are targeting critical US infrastructure like the Colonial Pipeline, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said June 2.
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The two world leaders are set to meet June 16 in Geneva, their first meeting since Biden took office.
"Harboring criminal entities that are doing harm to the critical infrastructure in the United States is not acceptable," Psaki said during a press briefing. "We're not going to stand by that ... and we're not going to take options off the table."
Asked if Biden believes Putin has the ability to stop the attacks by Russian-based ransomware criminals, Psaki said the US president thinks Putin and the Russian government have "a role to play in stopping and preventing these attacks."
A ransomware attack against Colonial in May forced the pipeline to shut for several days, wreaking havoc with gasoline and diesel supplies across the Southeast and East Coast.
Among the Biden administration's response to the incident, the White House issued an executive order to improve the federal government's own cybersecurity preparedness, and the Transportation Security Administration ordered private companies to report all cyber attacks to the government.
A major US meat producer was the latest target of ransomware this week.
The FBI said the Russian-based DarkSide ransomware was behind the Colonial attack.
Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical adviser with S&P Global Platts Analytics, said the Biden administration has already demonstrated it would use cyber activity as a justification for additional US sanctions against Russia if the investigation finds any direct involvement in the attacks.
Sheldon said the White House issued a "shot across the bow" at Russia earlier this year by putting restrictions on US purchases of sovereign debt.
"You could reasonably see that if tensions worsen — whether through this or any other conflict between the US and Russia — spreading to the secondary market," Sheldon told Platts Capitol Crude in mid-May.