President Biden was surprised on Saturday when he stopped to buy ice cream and was asked a real question about Russian hacking. He stumbled for an answer, saying he didn't have enough information, and referred to his notes, saying he expected to be briefed.
"I was wondering if I could ask you a question," Biden is asked as he orders ice cream. Biden assents. "With the most recent hack by the Russians, would you say that this means that—"
"We're not sure it's the Russians," interrupts Biden. "I got a brief as I was on the plane; that's why I was late getting off the plane," Biden said.
"Do you have any idea who it might be, sir?" Biden is asked.
"I'll be in better shape to talk to you about it," Biden says, "I'll tell you what they sent me, OK?" He pulls out some notes from his inside pocket. "The idea, first of all, we're not sure who it is, for one. And what I did, I directed the full response of the government to assist in a response if we determine."
"What else do you need?" Biden addresses the cashier.
"Oh, nothing. You're all set," the cashier replies.
"Okay," Biden says, pivoting to the questioner. "The fact is, the director of the intelligence community will give me a deep dive on what's happened, and I'll know better tomorrow. And if it is either with the knowledge of and/or a consequence of Russia, I told Putin we will respond."
"Did you tell him already, sir?" Biden is asked.
"No, no, I haven't called, because we're not certain. The initial thinking is that it wasn't the Russian government, but we're not sure yet, so ...." Biden trails off.
The US and the world have been rocked by many massive hacking incidents this year. Famously, less than a month ago on May 13, 2021, the Colonial company wound up paying almost $5 million to an unknown group of hackers.
This most recent incident started on Friday, and was international in scope. It targeted Kaseya, a company that manages automatic software updates, which allowed them to get access to lots of machines very quickly.
Contrary to what Biden's plane briefing apparently said, was attributed to REvil, a team of hackers with close ties to the Russian government.
An earlier version of this story said that the encounter happened on Sunday, but it was Saturday.