The World Today for June 25, 2021



Thrust and Parry

After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland recently, American President Joe Biden said Russia would face consequences if the country continued to encourage or ignore ransomware and other cyber espionage attacks launched from its territory.

Asked what those consequences might be, Biden did not mention specifics, however, saying that Putin’s “credibility” would suffer, MSNBC reported.

The American president faces a tricky challenge with Russia and hacking.

Before the meeting, Biden officials discussed a possible military response to hacking, the Guardian wrote. Cyberattacks are on an escalating trajectory that resembles how incidents of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism became more serious before they culminated in the September 11 attacks.

According to Business Insider, Russia gives tacit support to hackers that have meddled in American elections and launched ransomware attacks against an oil pipeline, government facilities, private businesses, food suppliers and other targets. It appears as if Russia accepts the hackers so long as they don’t conduct attacks on Russian interests. Many ransomware programs won’t work on Russian-language keyboards, for example.

Putin could easily shut down hackers working within his country, former US counterespionage honcho William Evanina told the Washington Times.

But the connections between the Kremlin and the hackers are murky, noted Reuters. American officials have not released evidence tying Russia to the attacks. American law enforcement officials and intelligence have drawn links between dark hacker groups and Russia, however. A federal judge in Nevada recently deported a Russian man after he pleaded guilty to attempting to pay a Tesla employee $500,000 to insert malware into the company’s servers.

Technology has also made Biden’s job much tougher.

As Vox explained, ransomware has been around since the 1980s when hackers infected computers with floppy disks and demanded victims mail cashier’s checks or money orders to a post office box in Panama to regain access to their machines. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin made that process even easier. The hackers can now obtain their loot anonymously from anywhere on the planet.

What’s more, an ecosystem of developers, extortionists and “access brokers” who hack into sophisticated systems has developed in Russia, creating a business that, like any industry, has its own lobbying and influence peddling operation, National Public Radio added.

If Russia won’t crack down, others might, Ukrainian police recently rounded up members of a ransomware gang that allegedly broke into American universities and other organizations in the US and South Korea, the Financial Times wrote.

It was the first time that mass arrests for ransomware occurred anywhere. It probably won’t be the last.

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