Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section Celebrates 20 Years
This October marks the 20th year for the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), which is responsible for implementing the Justice Department’s national strategies in combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide.
“CCIPS is the cornerstone of the department’s anti-cybercrime efforts, and has been involved in one capacity or another in practically every significant cybercrime and intellectual property case that has been in the public eye,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “And CCIPS has been performing that role for 20 years, long before terms like ‘data breach’ or the ‘darknet’ became common references.”
CCIPS was established on Oct. 13, 1996, from an earlier five-attorney “Computer Crime Unit” formed in 1991 within the division’s General Litigation and Legal Advice Section. In 20 years, CCIPS’s membership has grown to more than 40 attorneys, in addition to nine digital investigative analysts who comprise the CCIPS Cybercrime Lab. Section attorneys regularly run complex investigations; resolve unique legal and investigative issues raised by emerging computer and telecommunications technologies; litigate cases; provide litigation support to other prosecutors; train federal, state and local law enforcement personnel; comment on and propose legislation; promote cybersecurity; and initiate and participate in international efforts to combat computer and intellectual property crime.
Since 1996, the section has prosecuted cases involving hundreds of millions of pieces of stolen information, including credit card and debit card numbers, email addresses, social security numbers and other personally identifying information; hundreds of millions of dollars of trade secrets, including highly sensitive technologies and agricultural products; tens of millions of counterfeit products and copyrighted works, ranging from pharmaceutical products and military supplies to digital media; and millions of compromised computers victimized by botnets and ransomware.
CCIPS’s litigation accomplishments, in partnership with prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, include prosecutions of sophisticated hackers, such as the conviction of hacker Albert Gonzalez who, along with co-conspirators, infiltrated the computer networks of major retailers around the country and stole in excess of 40 million credit/debit card numbers; the disruption of the Gameover Zeus botnet and Cryptolocker ransomware scheme in connection with the indictment of Russian alleged cybercriminal Evgeniy Bogachev; and the takedown of Megaupload.com and indictment of its operator, Kim Dotcom, for allegedly running the largest worldwide online digital piracy conspiracy in history. In cooperation with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and international partners, the section has played a central role in cutting-edge international operations against “dark market” websites hosted on the Tor network.
CCIPS has also worked to protect the privacy of Americans by prosecuting privacy invasions by criminals such as hackers, cyberstalkers, sextortionists and purveyors of mobile spyware. In addition, CCIPS works diligently to assure the fair and appropriate use of law enforcement investigative authorities. CCIPS has regularly updated its search and seizure manual to educate investigators and prosecutors about the legal issues surrounding search and seizure of computers and gathering of electronic evidence. Over the years, CCIPS has contributed to Department of Justice policies promoting the effective and responsible use of evolving technologies, such as cell site simulators and drones.
Over its 20 years, CCIPS has played a transformative role in addressing the increasingly international nature of computer crime and digital evidence. In 1997, the section helped form the G8 24/7 High Tech Crime Network, which created formal points of contact in participating countries for urgent assistance with international investigations involving electronic evidence. CCIPS has served as the 24/7 Network point of contact for the United States since that time, assisting in emergency responses to criminal and terrorist incidents abroad. From 1999 to 2001, CCIPS was part of the team that negotiated the Convention on Cybercrime, also known as the Budapest Convention, the world’s first international treaty governing cross-border cybercrime and electronic evidence, which now boasts 50 member countries.
CCIPS also acts as a focal point for national and global networks of trained computer and intellectual property crime prosecutors. The section coordinates the nationwide Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property prosecutor network, which is made up of dedicated computer and IP crime prosecutors in every U.S Attorney’s Office. In cooperation with the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training, CCIPS also manages regional Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator placements around the world.
New initiatives like the Cybersecurity Unit represent CCIPS’s continued dedication to its role as a central hub for expert advice and legal guidance in a variety of areas, including best practices for victim response and reporting of cyber incidents, analysis of the implications of emerging technological changes like the Internet of Things, and white papers on topics such as information sharing and reports on active defense.
“The section has shown a truly remarkable ability to respond to emerging threats and rapid technological change,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “In the next 20 years, I expect that CCIPS will continue to be a leader for the department.”