President Biden said today he was “optimistic” after speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the United States government’s expectations for cooperation from Russia in the event of ransomware attacks that emanate from Russian territory.

The White House confirmed that the two leaders spoke today, following the Kaseya ransomware attack that came to light last weekend, and face-to-face talks between Presidents Biden and Putin last month. Those discussions included President Biden’s declaration that cyberattacks on critical infrastructure sectors should be off-limits and an agreement that experts from both countries would work on specific understandings about those limitations.

The U.S. has not officially attributed the Kaseya attack to Russian actors. The Kaseya attack was, analysts say, undertaken by the REvil organization, which has been described as a provider of ransomware-as-a-service, and is believed to operate from Russia and other locations.

Speaking at the White House today, President Biden said he made it “very clear” to President Putin that “when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is.”

“And secondly, we’ve set up a means of communication now on a regular basis to be able to communicate with one another when each of us thinks something is happening in another country that affects the home country,” President Biden said.

“And so it went well,” he said of the call, adding, “I’m optimistic.”

According to a White House summary of the conversation, “President Biden underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasized that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware.”

“President Biden reiterated that the United States will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge,” the White House reported.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.