President Biden on Friday urged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to “take action to disrupt” online criminal organizations in his country and said that the United States reserves the right to respond against hackers who launch ransomware attacks from inside Russia, according to a White House readout of a telephone call between the two leaders.
The call came in the wake of a ransomware attack over the July 4 weekend in which a Russia-based group called REvil, an abbreviation of “ransomware evil,” hacked a Florida company that provides software to thousands of smaller firms. Russian hackers were also accused of breaching a contractor for the Republican National Committee last week.
“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,” the White House statement said. “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 United States intelligence agencies have said they do not believe that the Russian government was directly involved in the REvil attack. But Mr. Biden and top officials have repeatedly said that they believe Russia should be doing more to disrupt the networks of criminals that launch such attacks.
Mr. Biden said he told Mr. Putin that during a face-to-face meeting in Geneva several weeks ago. And after meeting with his top cyber officials earlier this week, Mr. Biden told reporters that he “will deliver” that message again to Mr. Putin, but he did not make clear when that would happen.
The readout of Friday’s call ended the suspense.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, offered few details about the call beyond what the White House released in the statement. She declined to say what Mr. Putin’s response was during the call.
But she said the call was evidence that Mr. Biden intends to remain in frequent touch with the leader of Russia, in person and otherwise.
“First, let me say that the president is a believer in face-to-face diplomacy when possible, and leader-to-the-leader diplomacy, when that’s not possible, and this is an example of that,” she said.