Rep. John Katko calls REvil ransomware attack a moment of reckoning

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Rep. John Katko, top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling the massive ransomware attack that affected hundreds of companies worldwide a “moment of reckoning” in the US-Russia relationship.

In a statement to The Post on Tuesday, Katko (R-NY) lamented that the cyberattack, allegedly conducted by Russian-linked cybercrime group REvil on Friday, came just weeks after President Biden boasted about taking Russian President Vladimir Putin to task on the matter of ransomware.

“Only weeks after President Biden sat down with Putin and allegedly talked a tough game with Russia, hackers from Russia again attacked thousands of U.S. companies, compromising our nation’s critical infrastructure,” the top-ranking House Homeland Security Committee Republican said.

“We’re facing a moment of reckoning when it comes to deterrence,” the New York lawmaker added. “Adversaries like Russia are creating safe havens for bad actors and we must project strength.”

Katko’s comments come one day after the cybercrime group claimed to be the hackers behind the attack.

In a post on a blog typically used by REvil, a group of ransomware hackers appears to have taken responsibility for the cyberattack that hit over 200 US companies Friday, demanding $70 million in bitcoin for the data to be returned.

“On Friday we launched an attack on [managed service providers]. More than a million systems were infected,” the posting on the dark website Happy Blog explained.

The post, written in broken English, requested the staggering price in exchange for the group releasing information to be able to regain access to sites “in less than an hour.”

The blog is frequently used by REvil, which is considered among the world’s most prolific cyber-extortionists.

“Bad actors like these are emboldened when President Biden projects weakness on the world stage,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) told the Daily Mail of the attacks.

“We should take immediate action to hold Russia accountable and make it clear we will not tolerate acts of cyber terrorism.”

Friday’s mass cyberattack — which cybersecurity firm Huntress Labs has blamed on the Russia-linked ransomware gang — hit at least 200 companies at the start of the Independence Day weekend.

Swedish grocery stores, schools in New Zealand, and two major Dutch IT firms were among the victims of REvil, which launched its attack Friday after breaching the systems of US-based software firm Kaseya. 

After Kaseya, a Florida-based IT company, was hit, the attack spread through the corporate networks that use its software.

Asked about the attack while in Michigan on Saturday, Biden urged caution as US authorities narrowed down and confirmed the source of the attack.

“We’re not sure it’s the Russians,” he said, adding that he had been briefed on the matter and had instructed the intelligence community to find out more.

“The fact is that I’ve directed the intelligence community to give me a deep dive on what’s happened, and I’ll know better tomorrow. And if it is either with the knowledge of and/or a consequence of Russia, then I told Putin we would respond,” he said.

Asked if he had already spoken to the Kremlin, Biden said he had not, as he was waiting for the intelligence community to confirm the information before acting.

He then voiced doubts from those in the intelligence community about Russia being the source of the hack.

“We’re not certain. The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government, but we’re not sure yet.”

Ransomware is a malicious software that locks up a user’s data. Hackers typically demand money, most frequently in cryptocurrency, to unlock or return the affected data.

Ransomware and other cyberattacks have skyrocketed in recent months, as US foes worldwide — unable to successfully take on America’s armed forces — turned their attention to our weaker digital defenses.

FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed last month that in the US alone, the FBI is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware.

His revelation came in the wake of the hack in June against JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat supplier, and a similar attack on Colonial Pipeline in May.

REvil was responsible for the JBS hack.

During his summit with Putin last month, Biden said he addressed Russia’s safe harboring of cybercriminals responsible for the string of recent attacks.

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