No indication' Russia has cracked down on ransomware gangs, top FBI official says

The FBI’s No. 2 on Tuesday said the agency has seen no evidence that the Russian government has moved against ransomware gangs operating on its soil.

"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" since bilateral talks began with the Biden administration earlier this year, FBI deputy director Paul Abbate said during a panel discussion at a summit in National Harbor, Maryland hosted by the AFCEA International and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

He added that the U.S. has asked for “help and cooperation” with those cybercriminals it knows to be operating inside of Russia, including those who have indictments against them, but received nothing in return.

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

Abbate’s comments are the strongest yet by a senior administration official that the Kremlin is ignoring President Joe Biden’s request to crack down on ransomware groups following his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden presented his counterpart with a list of critical infrastructure and warned such entities were “off-limits” to cyberattacks. He publicly vowed that if they were struck by Russian-based cybercriminals, the U.S. would respond.

White House officials in recent weeks have refrained from attributing a recent lull in ransomware attacks to actions by Putin’s government.

“I think it’s too soon to say that we’re out of the woods,” National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said just days after the digital group called “REvil,” which is believed to be based in Russia, reappeared online.

U.S. Cyber Command chief Army Gen. Paul Nakasone demurred when asked if the time had come for Washington to strike back at Moscow.

“As 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,” he said. 

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Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak

is the senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. Prior to joining Recorded Future News in 2021, he spent more than five years at Politico, where he covered digital and national security developments across Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. He previously was a reporter at The Hill, National Journal Group and Inside Washington Publishers.