Biden tells Putin certain cyber-attacks should be 'off-limits'

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyber-attacks, while the two leaders agreed in their summit to start cybersecurity talks.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meet for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

Biden said the list of organizations that should not be attacked includes the 16 sectors designated by the United States as critical infrastructure. The sectors, based on a description published by the U.S. Homeland Security Department, include telecommunications, healthcare, food and energy.

“We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits,” Biden said. “We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.”

In a separate press conference, Putin said he agreed to “begin consultations” on cybersecurity issues. He also said that while the United States had requested information from Russia about recent cyber-attacks, Moscow had similarly asked for information about attacks he said were coming from the U.S. side and had not received a response.

The talks follow several major hacking incidents in the United States against important government agencies and American companies that U.S. officials have blamed on Russian hackers.

Putin brought up a ransomware cyber-attack in May that disrupted activity at the Colonial Pipeline in the U.S. Southeast, an attack attributed to a group believed to be based in Russia but one that Putin has said had no link to the Russian state.

Putin said the cybersecurity consultations were “extremely important”.

“We need to throw out all kinds of insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia,” Putin said.

He said there were issues to work on, but specific details about what commitments should be made would be decided as negotiations develop.

“We certainly see where the attacks are coming from. We see that this work is coordinated from U.S. cyberspace,” Putin said.

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