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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Northwest Indiana Cyber Security Summit


Hammond, IN
United States

Thank you, U.S. Attorney Dave Capp, for your kind words, and your two and a half decades of distinguished service here in the Northern District of Indiana.

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and as interim U.S. Attorney – on no less than three occasions – you’ve proven both your leadership skills and legal expertise. Today, in your role as United States Attorney, you serve as an advisor to me and as an example to your colleagues. And the contributions that you and your team are making are felt across – and far beyond – this District.

It’s a pleasure to stand with you this morning – and I want to thank all of you for welcoming me back to Hammond. As Dave just mentioned, I had my very first jury trial here – in your old courthouse. What Dave – very graciously – failed to mention is that I ended up losing that case. But I learned an awful lot here – and it’s wonderful to return to the Northern District today.

I am deeply grateful for the outstanding work that Dave and his colleagues – along with the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office, the United States Steel Corporation, and so many other law enforcement and private sector partners – have done to bring us all together.

In particular, I’d like to recognize Michael Welch, the Indianapolis FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge, for his dedicated service – and for taking the time to be here this morning. I’d also like to thank each and every one of our participants – from across the private sector and every level of government and law enforcement – for your leadership in addressing one of the most urgent, and complex, global challenges we face: the problem, and increasing prevalence, of cybercrime.

It’s a privilege to take part in this critical summit – the very first of its kind to focus exclusively on cyber security challenges and solutions. I appreciate this opportunity to salute the proactive, innovative, and collaborative approach that has been adopted here in the Northern District to address this issue. Not only is this approach working, today it’s being strengthened by the diverse group of stakeholders assembled here – ready to work together, to share insights and expertise, and to lend your voices to a growing national dialogue.

You are attorneys and investigators, business leaders and public servants, prosecutors and law enforcement agents. You represent major industrial corporations, burgeoning tech companies, government agencies, and private security firms. And although you may bring different perspectives to the issue of cyber security – in one way or another – each of you serves on the front lines of this fight every single day.

As we open this landmark summit, I know we are united by our common goals: security, opportunity, openness, and prosperity. But we’re also bound by our shared values – and joined together by our collective concerns.

In this age of seamless global commerce and instant communication, more individuals, companies, institutions, and even governments are reliant on electronic networks and information systems than ever before. As communities across Indiana and around the country struggle to overcome the effects of an historic recession, we all stand to reap enormous benefits from the commercial and technological advances we’ve seen in just the last few decades – but only if the information technology being used to drive social, economic, and political progress is secure.

In recent years, we’ve seen clear, and alarming, advances in the sophistication and commercialization of crimes involving electronic networks. And the staggering volume of money being stolen online today has the potential to threaten not only the security of our nation – but the integrity of our government, the stability of our economy, and the safety of our people.

That’s why conversations like the one we begin today are so important. Many of the 21st -century threats we face – to both our national and economic security – have no precedent. They know no borders. And they demand – not only our constant attention, but also a comprehensive, collaborative, and well-coordinated response. One that’s nimble enough to fight complex – and constantly evolving – transnational threats.

Of course, the success of any such response must be founded on strong cooperation between key public and private stakeholders at every level. It must focus on breaking down traditional barriers to communication and cross-sector engagement. And it must be predicated on bringing new partners to the table – and making the most of precious resources.

Today’s summit is an affirmation of this promise – and a vindication of the collaborative approach that you’ve helped to pioneer. With this gathering, we send a strong and unmistakable message: that a new era of public-private cooperation, engagement, and vigilance has begun.

This is now true all across the country. But, here in Northern Indiana, you were ahead of your time. Nearly a decade ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, area FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices convened partners from across the region to help identify and combat emerging national – and cyber – security threats. Since then, the interdisciplinary relationships that you’ve forged – and the steps that you’ve taken to keep pace with emerging challenges – have been nothing short of remarkable.

During this same period, we’ve also seen major progress on an international scale. Since I became Attorney General more than two years ago, I’ve worked to make certain that cyber security is a top priority for our nation’s Department of Justice. And I’ve traveled all over the world to engage key allies in this work.

Several weeks ago, I met with a number of my international counterparts in Hungary – where I spoke at an event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. A decade ago – just as your Lakefront Infrastructure Working Group began holding its initial meetings – the United States became one of the first nations to support this unprecedented, much-needed agreement, which provided a path for allies around the world to collectively address cyber threats and criminal activities, while also safeguarding civil rights.

As a result of this and other joint efforts, we’re now working with our international partners to advance investigations and prosecutions like never before. We have agents and attorneys in place across the globe, where they work alongside local law enforcement teams to identify and combat cyber security threats. We’re able to respond to potential problems more quickly and effectively than ever. And the results of such unprecedented levels of collaboration are clear.

In just the last few months, the Justice Department has brought cases against a number of criminal conspirators for their roles in coordinated cybercrimes that, according to court documents, netted nearly 1.5 million dollars from U.S. victims. We’ve announced takedowns of significant criminal groups operating from Romania, Egypt, and elsewhere that had been victimizing American businesses and citizens – including children.

We also conducted an extensive operation to disable an international criminal network that had infected more than two million computers worldwide with malicious software. Until we stepped in – with the help of industry and security experts, as well as key international partners – this malware was providing criminals with the capabilities to capture bank account numbers, user names, and other sensitive information online.

The Department has also joined with other agencies across the Administration to strengthen our efforts – both nationally and internationally – in combating intellectual property crimes – something I know is a top concern for area business leaders.

And as we’ve seen here in Indiana – as recently as last summer – such crimes are not victimless. In August, FBI agents arrested a Chinese national – who had served as a researcher for Dow AgroSciences, headquartered in Indianapolis – on charges of economic espionage to benefit a foreign government. Before being fired from Dow in 2008, he allegedly violated his company’s confidentiality policy, stole trade secrets as well as property, and sent them to the People’s Republic of China – where he is accused of directing others to further research and develop them, advancing Chinese national interests and potentially costing his former employer as much as 100 million dollars.

This case – one of only a handful that’s ever been brought on such charges – is being prosecuted by the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. It is slated to go to trial in the fall. But it’s just one of many examples of our work to keep critical financial information secure – and to prevent the electronic transport and use of sensitive and proprietary materials.

Another key example of our success in this ongoing effort is last November’s “Cyber Monday” takedown. On the Monday following Thanksgiving – which is now called “Cyber Monday” because it’s known as the busiest online shopping day of the year – the Department announced a coordinated law enforcement operation that seized more than 80 domain names to prevent the sale of thousands of counterfeit items. Weeks later, we joined key government and private sector partners – including several of our nation’s largest Internet companies – at a White House summit to discuss ways to curb intellectual property theft and strengthen IP enforcement.

In looking back on what’s been achieved in recent months, we can all be encouraged. But, as you’ve discussed here this morning, the fact is that – despite the progress we’re seeing and the technological advances we’re constantly making – the challenges we face are urgent. And they are increasingly sophisticated.

So, this is no time to become complacent. As President Obama has repeatedly indicated – and as your groundbreaking work has proven – we must, and we will, take our global fight against cyber threats to the next level.

Today’s summit sends a resounding signal that – together – we can, and will continue to, fight back. And it proves our unwavering commitment to preventing terrorists and other criminals from exploiting the Internet for planning, financing, or executing attacks; to engaging with an expanded network of partners across government and the private sector; and to strengthening our efforts to establish the rule of law in cyberspace.

I’m proud to report that this work is – and it will remain – a top priority not only for me personally, but for our nation’s Department of Justice, and for this Administration at the Cabinet level.

Just last month, at the White House, I joined with Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan – and with Secretaries Clinton, Napolitano, and Locke – in announcing a new International Strategy on Cyberspace that will guide our nation’s global efforts to prevent and to combat cybercrimes. T his strategy will allow us to build on the record of progress that’s been achieved in recent years – including right here in Indiana. And it will help us ensure that the Internet will continue to provide a forum for open discourse, a marketplace for commercial innovation, and a safe environment for our children to communicate and learn.

But – especially in this time of growing demands and limited budgets – the fact is that government simply can’t do this alone. We must replicate the partnerships you’ve established here in the Northern District, and bring even more local and national private sector partners into this work. And we must continue to seek out ways to expand our base of knowledge, to break down traditional “silos” of responsibility, and to broaden the range of resources we can bring to bear in this fight.

To achieve this, we’ll need your help. And we’ll continue to rely on your expertise.

From criminal syndicates, to terrorist organizations, to foreign intelligence groups, to disgruntled employees and other malicious intruders, the range of entities that stand ready to execute and exploit cyber attacks has never been greater. But I believe that our commitment to preventing and combating these threats has never been stronger. And, as I look out over this crowd today, I can’t help but feel optimistic about what we will achieve together.

Once again, I’d like to thank you for your leadership of – and contributions to – the Justice Department’s cyber security efforts. I am grateful to count each of you as partners. I look forward to working with you. And I urge all of you to keep up your great work, as well as the critical dialogue we’re beginning today.

Thank you.

Updated August 18, 2015