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Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia is not one of the 30 countries invited to this week's virtual counter-ransomware summit hosted by the White House, where the U.S. and its partners will discuss ways to crack down on global cybercriminal networks, according to a senior Biden administration official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is seeking to form an international coalition to stop ransomware attacks without having to rely on the Russian government, which has been accused of harboring cyber gangs.

Driving the news: The FBI has attributed two of this year's most high-profile ransomware attacks, which forced the temporary shutdowns of a major fuel pipeline and the largest meat supplier in the U.S., to the Russia-linked groups Darkside and REvil.

  • The senior official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the preferred channel for engaging with Russia on ransomware is the set of "expert consultations" launched after President Biden and President Vladimir Putin's summit in Geneva this summer.
  • The official described those talks as "direct" and "very candid," but said the U.S. was waiting for "follow-up" action from Moscow.

What to watch: Officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, EU, Nigeria, South Korea, South Africa, Ukraine and the UAE are among those participating in six sessions planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

  • The full, wide-ranging list of countries "highlights just how pernicious and transnational and global the ransomware threat has been," the senior Biden official said.
  • The official declined to preview what concrete agreements or deliverables the White House was seeking, but said four areas of particular focus will be "national resilience, countering illicit finance, disruption and other law enforcement efforts, and diplomacy."

The big picture: Convening the summit is the latest step the Biden administration has taken to address the explosive growth in ransomware attacks this year, which U.S. officials warn will pose an economic and national security threat for years to come.

  • The Treasury Department recently sanctioned a cryptocurrency exchange for its alleged role in facilitating ransomware-related transactions, and the Justice Department launched a special crypto unit last week to crack down on digital payments used for cybercrime.
  • In July, Biden signed a National Security Memorandum directing agencies to develop new standards for protecting critical infrastructure against potential cyber threats.

Go deeper

Biden boxed in on Ukraine

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is pushing to get Congress, Europe and Ukraine on the same page as it tries to deter Russia from invading Ukraine — all while knowing that the decisive factor will ultimately be the whims of Vladimir Putin.

Why it matters: Officials from virtually all sides are warning that the risk of a large-scale, conventional war on the European continent is greater than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few agree on how to stop it.

Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of preparing "false flag" operation to attack Ukraine

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The U.S. claims to have information indicating that Russia has "already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine," laying the groundwork for a potential pretext to invade, according to a U.S. official.

Why it matters: Diplomatic talks between the U.S., its European allies and Russia failed to produce a breakthrough this week, raising fears that Moscow will invade Ukraine and unleash a devastating new war.

Updated 18 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a powerful and potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring an array of hazards, from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten coastal property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.