White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that President Biden is sending a “clear message” to Russia about the ongoing ransomware attacks, but did not say what he would do to enforce the red line that drew up for President Putin last month.
“If the Russian government is unable or unwilling to act against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will act,” Ms Psaki said. “In terms of what we will do, I am not in a position, of course, to discuss the operations.”
Biden has come under fire from Republicans and some media outlets accusing him of inaction in the series of cyberattacks against the United States in recent months.
The president had already delivered a verbal warning to Putin during a one-on-one summit in Geneva, but has not moved forward with more aggressive moves to attack the infrastructure used by the hacking groups hiding inside Russia.
Ms. Psaki said Thursday that Biden delivered a “clear message” to his Russian counterpart during the summit.
“We continue to send that clear message in our commitments as well,” he continued.
While the administration weighs its options, there are also concerns among officials that retaliation could lead Russia to step up its own actions. Recent cyberattacks have highlighted how vulnerable US businesses and government agencies are to ransomware attacks.
Ms Psaki insisted on Thursday that because the attacks are coming from within Russia, it should be Putin’s responsibility to handle the threat. Adding that the United States will act if Russia does not.
He said Biden would bring that message to Putin if they met now.
“If you don’t take steps to suppress criminal actors in your country, even if the government didn’t know about it, we will. We reserve that option and that remains our clear message, ”said Ms. Psaki.
Pressure mounts for Biden to take action, after issuing a series of warnings. The Wall Street Journal editorial board implored Biden on Thursday to send a strong message to Russia and others who tolerate cybercriminals.
“If the United States does not respond, it will be an open season on America’s digital infrastructure,” the editorial board wrote. “Proportionate retaliation runs the risk of escalation. But after publicly drawing a red line, Biden has no choice not to show Putin and other thugs around the world that the US president’s words are empty. “
The United States has been the victim of two cyberattacks in less than a week.
This week, the hackers gained access to a Republican National Committee contractor. The RNC said the hackers did not have access to any of his data.
The attack has been linked to a group from Russia, known as Cozy Bear, according to a Bloomberg report. However, White House officials say they have not attributed the attack to a specific group.
A separate attack by the Russia-based REvil hacking group targeted at least 200 American companies over Independence Day weekend.