Russia, U.S. and other countries reach new agreement against cyber hacking, even as attacks continue

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Russia and the United States — along with 23 other countries — recently reaffirmed that states should not hack each other’s critical infrastructure in peacetime or shelter cyber criminals who conduct attacks on other countries.

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But Russia, which was among the states originally agreeing to the norms at the United Nations, has violated them repeatedly over the years. Experts are skeptical those violations will halt unless the United States and its allies impose far more serious consequences.

President Biden is on an eight-day trip to Europe that will culminate in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. He will raise issues of cybersecurity, including his concern that Moscow is harboring hackers who have carried out damaging ransomware attacks against some of the United States’ most critical sectors. An attack last month led to a days-long shutdown of the country’s largest refined fuel pipeline, followed by an attack that disrupted the world’s largest meat processor.

“Ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure are of an even higher order of magnitude of concern for us,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. “We do not judge that the Russian government has been behind these recent ransomware attacks, but we do judge that actors in Russia have. And we believe that Russia can take and must take steps to deal with it.”

The question now is whether Russia, and other countries such as China, which affirmed the cyber norms in May, can or will be held accountable.

[Opinion: How Russia and China are attempting to rewrite cyberworld order]

White House officials have downplayed expectations from the summit given the tense relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Current and former officials say the global norms provide a foundation for accountability by explaining the bounds of acceptable conduct in cyberspace and by creating an expectation of good behavior.

“It certainly seems that states want others to behave well in cyberspace, and there are some key states that just aren’t. So you have to do something about it,” said Michele Markoff, the State Department’s acting coordinator…

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