July 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to crack down on ransomware groups amid an influx of attacks on the United States in recent months.
The phone conversation between the two leaders comes as U.S. companies and government entities fend off ransomware attacks by Russian-based hackers.
"President Biden underscored the need for Russia to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating in Russia and emphasized that he is committed to continued engagement on the broader threat posed by ransomware," the White House said in a statement.
"President Biden reiterated that the United States will take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge."
Biden announced over the weekend that he directed intelligence agencies to investigate a ransomware attack that hit hundreds of U.S. businesses. Huntress Labs, a security company, suspected the attack -- which affected software platform Kaseya and many small businesses July 2 -- was made by the Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang. The same group was blamed for attacking meatpacker JBS last month by the FBI.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that ransomware attacks on U.S. entities have increased over the past year and a half.
"Let me say that the president is a believer in face-to-face diplomacy when possible and leader-to-leader diplomacy when that's not possible. And this is the first time, even though ransomware attacks have been increasing over the past 18 months, if not longer, that there has been this level of engagement," she said.
"And certainly the president knew, even when they met in Geneva, that there would be a need for ongoing discussions and engagements."
Biden and Putin met in Geneva on the sidelines of a G7 meeting, at which time the Russian president denied his country's involvement in cyberattacks against the United States.