White House wont say Russia behind ransomware attack

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused to point to Russia as responsible for the ransomware attack ​that targeted hundreds of US companies — characterizing it as “disproving a negative” — amid President Biden’s recent tough talk about cyberattacks during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Psaki was asked if there was any evidence that Putin tried to curb ransomware attacks originating in Russia after Biden pressed him to crack down on hackers last month at their summit in Geneva.

“I would say it’s a little bit like disproving a negative there. Because this is what we’re talking about here is ransomware attack from likely criminal actors. Again, it hasn’t been fully attributed yet so we’re getting a little bit ahead,” Psaki said at Tuesday’s White House briefing, adding that there are “expert level talks and negotiations” continuing. 

“And beyond that, I think what the message that the president has sent clearly, and what we’re continuing to send clearly, is even with these criminal actors — we’re not saying they’re coming from the government or directed from the government — but even with those actors, they have a responsibility. So that’s where the policy is moving forward. I think it’s difficult for me to disprove a negative,” she continued. 

The Russian-linked REvil cyber gang took responsibility for the attack against 200 companies last Friday and is demanding $70 million in bitcoin for the return of their data.

“On Friday we launched an attack on [managed service providers]. More than a million systems were infected,” said the posting on the dark website Happy Blog, which is frequently used by the group.

The cybersecurity firm Huntress Labs also blamed the ransomware attack on REvil. 

Biden was asked during a visit to Michigan on Saturday if he confronted Putin about it. 

“We’re not sure it’s the Russians,” Biden said, adding that he asked the intelligence community to investigate.

“The fact is that I’ve directed the intelligence community to give me a deep dive on what’s happened, and I’ll know better tomorrow. And if it is either with the knowledge of and/or a consequence of Russia, then I told Putin we would respond,” he said.

Biden said he hadn’t spoken to the Kremlin, saying he was waiting for confirmation that Russia was involved.  

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