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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

Kenyan president visits White House amid corruption claims

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visits the White House in 2014. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden will announce Thursday during a visit by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House that the U.S. will donate an additional 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.

Why it matters: Biden is belatedly seeking to bolster U.S. engagement with the region, which has been a low priority as the administration goes all in on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. But Biden's choice for the first African leader to visit his White House has raised some eyebrows.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, which has been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.

2 hours ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.