Joe Biden ( Photo by Cameron Smith)
Joe Biden ( Photo by Cameron Smith)

Today at the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki addresses the recent ransomware attack and talks about the continued push for vaccines nationwide. Delaney Tarr reports on the briefing.

Another company has fallen victim to a ransomware attack, this time targeted at Kaseya, a Miami-based software company. Kaseya has said as many as 1,500 small businesses it serves have been compromised. The group of hackers has demanded $70 million in ransom from the company after exploiting vulnerabilities in the company’s software. 

The attack comes after President Joe Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin weeks earlier, where Biden laid out critical infrastructure off-limits to ransomware attacks. In that meeting, Biden sent out a message that Psaki repeated today. 

“If the Russian government cannot or will not take actions against criminal actors residing in Russia,” warned Psaki, “we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own.” 

The intelligence community has not yet attributed the attack, but Psaki said the cybersecurity community agreed that the “ evil operates out of Russia.” Major meat producer JBS had previously been targeted by a Russian hacker group. 

Since the meeting between Biden and Putin, Psaki said the White House has undertaken expert-level talks between national security team members and high-level Russian officials. Next week there will be a meeting focused on ransomware attacks. 

Psaki laid out Biden’s plan to address the attacks, announcing a meeting tomorrow between the President and key leaders in the State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and intelligence community members. The meeting will cover strategic efforts to counter ransomware. 

The Department of Justice also announced steps to combat the issue a few weeks ago, highlighting the goal of an international coalition to hold countries who harbor ransom actors accountable. Biden announced the same goal in light of the JBS meat market attacks weeks prior. 

In the meantime, Psaki stressed that the attack “underscores the need for companies and government agencies to focus on improving cybersecurity.” She said the federal government will continue to be partners to the private sector on this issue.

The Vaccine Push Continues

The President will address the nation today on its continued nationwide push after their missed July 4th goal. The administration planned to vaccinate 70% of the population by their self-imposed deadline but has fallen short in the weeks since announcing it. 

Biden will focus instead on the positive in his remarks. Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that by the end of the week, the country would have 160 million people fully vaccinated. 

The White House has stressed the importance of the vaccine, especially with the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Psaki reaffirmed that fully vaccinated people are protected against the variant. 

The holdout in vaccines continues to be people under the age of 27, but Psaki said that some parts of the country are over 80% vaccinated. Globally, countries like Greece have reported an increase in infections among young people. Officials attribute the spike to increased activity in bars and nightclubs.  The country has announced stricter rules for bars and clubs in an attempt to curb the virus among younger populations. 

For areas with lower rates, the administration plans to focus on five areas. 

The areas include door-to-door community outreach, a renewed emphasis on getting vaccines to primary care physicians, stepped up efforts to get the vaccine to pediatricians, and continued efforts to provide mobile clinic access. 

Even as the White House continues its vaccine push, some individuals are resisting the vaccine. Psaki said their efforts will target those who are persuadable, and believes the word-of-mouth effect will lead to more people getting vaccinated. 

“It is ultimately up to individuals to decide if they’re going to get vaccinated,” said Psaki. It’s a refrain she’s repeated since the beginning of the vaccine push. Psaki continued to keep the outlook on vaccines positive amid questions of the Delta variant and delayed global vaccine distribution. 

The White House has not yet met its previous target of distributing 80 million vaccines globally. Psaki said they have allocated the doses, but cited logistical challenges with other nation’s legal, regulatory, technological, and transportation barriers. 

Back in the US, the White House has set up a surge response team to go into states and communities with low vaccination rates and rising cases. A team has already been sent to Colorado, with Missouri as a possible next location. The teams continue on-the-ground work to increase vaccination rates in different communities. 

One reporter asked if the White House was frustrated with the apparent challenges with vaccination but  Psaki pushed back.

“As the federal government, we don’t have the luxury of feeling frustrated or feeling upset about individuals not getting the vaccine,” said Psaki, “what our responsibility is, is to ensure we are applying best practices.”

Psaki said the White House currently has no plans to set another vaccination goal, but that the country will continue battling the virus for some time.