U.S. sees no sign Moscow has cracked down on ransomware groups

There has been “no indication” the Russian government has tried to rein in criminal ransomware groups known to be operating from its soil, a top FBI official said Tuesday, despite the repeated insistence in recent months by the U.S. government that it should do so. 

“Based on what we’ve seen, I would say there is no indication that the Russian government has taken action to crack down on ransomware actors that are operating in the permissive environment that they’ve created there,” said Paul Abbate, deputy director of the FBI. “We’ve asked for help and cooperation with those who we know are in Russia, who we have indictments against, and we’ve seen no action.” 

“So I would say that nothing’s changed in that regard,” he said.  

Abbate and several other senior national security officials spoke Tuesday at an annual summit convened by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. CBS News moderated some of the panels at the gathering.

In July, President Biden said he told President Putin in a phone conversation that the U.S. expected Putin to take action to disrupt Russia-based ransomware groups.  

“I made it very clear to him that the United States expects that when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it is not sponsored by the state, we expect him to act if we give him enough information to act on who that is,” Mr. Biden said at the time. 

The phone call followed an in-person summit between the two presidents during which Mr. Biden warned of “consequences” for cyberattacks originating in Russia.  

The Russia-linked REvil gang, best known for extorting $11 million from the meat-processor JBS in May, fell quiet for several weeks following the presidential summit, but reemerged publicly late last week. It, along with a different criminal group known as DarkSide — which attacked fuel transporter Colonial Pipeline in May — has demanded multi-million dollar payments from victim companies in the past year.   

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said at an event hosted by the Reagan Institute last week that attacks were unlikely to stop, absent intervention by Moscow.  

“What I think will make the difference is whether Vladimir Putin and others who have the ability to enforce the law, international law…will ensure that they don’t come back,” Inglis said. 

General Paul Nakasone, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, said Tuesday that “options,” which could include offensive operations, would be prepared for Mr. Biden to review.

“[A]s the president determines a way forward, we will provide a number of different options that are available, and that’s across all of our agencies, and certainly U.S. Cyber Command,” Nakasone said.