Jen Psaki dodges questions about U.S. response to ransomware attacks


White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday stonewalled reporters’ questions about Russian hackers’ breach of a contractor for the Republican National Committee, refusing to say if the Biden administration is considering any retaliatory actions.

“Obviously, it’s not in our interest to preview our punches, as I like to say,” Ms. Psaki told reporters. “The president has a range of options should he determine to take action.”

Ms. Psaki also cautioned reporters that the investigation was continuing and that the administration had not attributed the attack to a specific group. Officials are in contact with the FBI, she said.

The Republican National Committee said Tuesday that hackers associated with the Russian government hacked one of its technology providers, Synnex. The hackers did not gain access to any RNC data, the organization said in a statement.

It is the second major cyberattack by a Russian-based hacking group in recent days. REvil, a Russian cybercriminal organization, hit at least 200 U.S. companies over the weekend.

Businesses have called on President Biden to take action to rein in ransomware activities against the United States.

Mr. Biden held a morning meeting about the U.S. strategy to counter ransomware attacks with officials from the State, Justice and Homeland Security departments.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting and before an Air Force One trip to Illinois to promote a slew of social programs he has proposed, Mr. Biden cryptically said he would deliver a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ms. Psaki offered no explanation for the president’s remarks, only saying Mr. Biden wasn’t going to discuss with the press what was shared with him in a private meeting.

“The president reserves the right to respond against any ransomware networks,” Ms. Psaki said. 

At his first meeting with Mr. Putin last month, Mr. Biden presented his counterpart with a list of 16 critical sectors of the American economy that, if attacked, would provoke a response from the U.S. However, Mr. Biden was not clear about what the U.S. response would be.

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