On the heels of the single biggest global ransomware attack yet, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced Tuesday President Joe Biden will meet with key government leaders Wednesday to discuss efforts to counter the attacks.
Miami-based Kaseya said it believes hackers hit about 800 to 1,500 businesses in at least 17 countries with ransom demands of up to $5 million. The businesses use Kaseya’s virtual system administrator, or VSA, to fully manage IT infrastructure.
Criminals used a tool that is supposed to help protect against malware but instead helped spread it widely.
Most of the 800 supermarkets in the Swedish Coop chain shut down because the malware crippled their cash registers, and more than 100 New Zealand kindergartens were knocked offline.
Cybersecurity experts suspect Kaseya’s estimate is low, noting that victims are still being identified.
Wednesday’s meeting is set to include leaders from the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and other members of the intelligence community.
“What [Biden] had asked the team to do several weeks ago was to review and assess what our options are and how we can better again put in place partnerships with the private sector, best practices, what levers we have from the federal government,” Press Secretary Psaki said.
The attack comes less than a month after President Joe Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop providing safe haven to ransomware gangs, including the one some experts believe are responsible for the latest attack.
“I will just reiterate a message that these officials are sending, as the president made clear to President Putin when they met,” Psaki said. “If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own.”
Over the weekend, Biden ordered U.S. intelligence to take a “deep dive” into the attack, saying the United States would respond if it determines the Kremlin is involved.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “The increase in ransomware attacks far predated the president taking office, and it is something that from day one, he has made a priority and has asked his team to focus on where we can have an impact, how we can better work with the private sector, and what we can do across the federal government to help address and reduce ransomware attacks on our critical infrastructure, but also on a range of entities in the United States. Tomorrow, the president will convene key leaders across the interagency, including the State Department, Department of Justice, DHS and other intelligence community, members of the intelligence community to discuss ransomware and our overall strategic efforts to counter it. And what he had asked the team to do several weeks ago was to review and assess what our options are and how we can better again put in place partnerships with the private sector, best practices, what levers we have from the federal government. So this is a priority. He’s meeting with a range of officials tomorrow and we will continue to implement moving forward.”
Reporter: “What would you say you’re still in the review and assessment phase?”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “Well, I would first note that we have announced several steps that we have taken. I mean, the Department of Justice announced a step just a few weeks ago. And we are continuing to up our partnership with the private sector, which is a key part of best practices and ensuring we are reducing the impact of the, I should say, the vulnerability of private sector entities. But there is more that can be done and it warrants and requires an interagency process and discussion in order to move those policies forward. The attack over the weekend underscores the need for companies and government agencies as well to focus on improving cybersecurity. And we’ve talked a bit in the past about the importance of private sector entities hardening their own cybersecurity, putting in place best practices that have been recommended by the federal government for some time.”
Reporter asking question: “President Putin and President Biden met and discussed cybersecurity. Were you under the impression that Putin would do more to prevent these kind of attacks?”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “So first, let me say let me give you a little bit of an update. Since the meeting between President Biden and President Putin, we have undertaken expert level talks that are continuing and we expect to have another meeting next week focused on ransomware attacks. And I will just reiterate a message that these officials are sending, as the president made clear to President Putin when they met. If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own. Now in this case, the intelligence community has not yet attributed the attack. The cyber security community agrees that REvil operates out of Russia with affiliates around the world. So, we will continue to allow that assessment to continue. But in our conversations, and we have been in touch directly, we are continuing to convey that message clearly.”