23:53 GMT22 June 2021
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    Washington has accused hackers "with ties to Russia" of carrying out the recent hack attacks against the Colonial Pipeline and a major Brazilian meat producer's US subsidiary, without providing evidence to back up its claims. Russia denies that it engages in hacking attacks against the US, and has proposed expanding cyber cooperation.

    The United States is working to build an international coalition to hold countries harbouring ransomware hackers accountable, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced.

    "We are working...to develop a counter-ransomware strategy to better protect all our networks and, of course, this requires working closely with the private sector, since many of these things are controlled by the private sector, to disrupt and destroy ransomeware infrastructure and ecosystems, to find and bring to justice those responsible, to build an international coalition, hold countries who harbour those engaged in ransomware attacks accountable," Blinken said, speaking at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the State Department's 2022 budget request on Monday.

    "This is a critical moment for the United States and our global leadership," Blinken said, speaking more generally of the budget request. "We've got to revitalise our alliances and partnerships, outcompete China and defend the international rules-based order against those who would seek to undermine it."

    Last week, the FBI attributed a ransomware attack on Brazilian meat producer JBS's US subsidiary to "threat actors" based in Russia, with the White House saying it was in touch with Moscow over the hack.

    Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the FBI's claims about Russia serving as a haven for malicious ransomware actors on Friday, saying that hackers exist in countries around the world and suggesting the FBI's allegations were "emotionally charged."

    The JBS attacks followed earlier hack attacks on the Colonial Pipeline, Microsoft Exchange, and SolarWinds, with US officials similarly attributing those attacks to Russia, without providing evidence to back up their claims.

    On Sunday, Blinken said that the upcoming 16 June summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and Biden would certainly include a discussion of the recent hacks, and indicated that Biden plans to tell Putin "directly and clearly what he can expect from the United States if aggressive, reckless actions toward us continue."

    The Biden administration already used the SolarWinds hacking claims to justify new sanctions against Russian companies, individuals, and other entities earlier this year, and has threatened additional restrictions. The US never provided any substantive evidence to prove Russian involvement in hacking attacks against US or American companies, with hacking claims going back to the 2016 election and allegations by US intelligence that Russia was meddling in US politics to elect Donald Trump. The latter allegations were never proven, but served as a Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump's head essentially until the end of his term as president -preventing him from carrying through with his election promises of improving relations with Moscow.

    Russia has repeatedly proposed enhancing cybersecurity cooperation with the United States to counter the activities of malign cyber actors, but these proposals have fallen on deaf ears amid US skepticism.

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