Presidents Biden & Putin Agree To Further Cybersecurity Talks


By Staff Writer

United States President Joe Biden has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. High on the agenda was countering cyberattacks originating in Russia. President Putin denied Russia was responsible for most of the cyberattacks but admitted countering the threat was important.

Cybersecurity experts have welcomed the acknowledgement from Russian that ransomware and other types of cyberattacks are a pressing global problem. Insiders agree more than half the world’s ransomware attacks now come from Russia.

Following the meeting in Geneva, President Biden said he wanted Russia to take a tougher stance on homegrown cyber threats. The President said hackers had extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from organisations worldwide.

“We made it clear we were not going to continue to allow this to go on,” President Biden said on Wednesday. ”He (Putin) knows there are consequences. We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits. We need some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.”

The meeting follows several high-profile cyberattacks on critical United States infrastructure, including the recent Colonial Pipeline and JBS ransomware attacks.

The United States has marked 16 sectors as critical infrastructure that should be off-limits from cyberattacks. Those sectors include telecommunications, healthcare, energy, and food.

“We need to throw out all kinds of insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia,” Putin said at his media conference following the meeting. The Russian President said the specific details and commitments to counter cyberattacks were yet to be worked out, but negotiations would commence.

The proposed cybersecurity discussions have met with a positive response from cybersecurity insiders. Meg King, Director of the Science and Technology Innovation Program at The Wilson Center in Washington, DC, said;

“President Biden’s announcement that the US and Russia will task experts in both countries to address the threat of ransomware attacks being carried out within Russia to discuss what’s off-limits and to follow up on specific cases is critical. 

“Sold as a mutual interest, which President Putin confirmed separately, this technical working group will deepen and create relationships necessary to get a better early warning about criminal hacking groups and agree on efforts to stop them. Putin’s comment that ‘we need to get rid of insinuations’ and ‘begin consultations on this topic’ suggests that Russia will cooperate, at least at the working level.”

“We’ll see where it goes,” says cybersecurity expert Rick Newman from Yahoo Finance. Newman notes not all cyberattacks from Russia are sponsored by government or intelligence agencies there. But says the country offers a safe harbour to hackers providing they don’t attack Russian interests. Newman says this needs to stop.

“He could crack down on them if he wanted to,” Newman said about President Putin.