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The Cybersecurity Program

"The Department will continue to confront malicious nation state cyber activity with our unique tools and work with our fellow agencies and the family of norms abiding nations to do the same. 

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers – February 17, 2021
 

The Current Threat

Cybercrime poses a significant threat to the privacy and economic security of American consumers and businesses, and its connection to nation-state actors poses a significant threat to the security of our nation as a whole.  Without security on the internet, there is no security for Americans, and our ability to thrive as an open and vibrant society is under threat.

Every day hackers attempt to steal financial, business, personal, or otherwise sensitive information, orchestrate massive disruptions of businesses, or electronically spirit away trade secrets. The threat can emanate from computers controlled by criminals halfway around the world, criminals next door, a disgruntled ex-employee, or a hostile foreign government.

Recently, we've seen a series of extraordinarily invasive and damaging compromises that victimized some of our nation’s largest businesses, as well as federal, state, and local governments, with tens of millions of personal and consumer records stolen, computer systems infiltrated, impaired, and left open to attack by other criminals, and entire company systems seized up by ransomware. All types of businesses have been victimized, from banks to large-scale retailers, to mom-and-pop financial firms, to entertainment companies, to restaurant chains, to hospitals and health care providers. Hacking can cost businesses millions of dollars each year, and ransomware can put them out of business altogether. Any estimate of losses fails to capture the very real—but unquantifiable—personal harm suffered by victims of online crime, such as identity theft, stalking, and sextortion.

Therefore, fighting cybercrime is one of the highest priorities of our Office.

The Cyber & Intellectual Property Crimes Section

The Cyber & Intellectual Property Crimes Section is the focus of our District’s anti-cybercrime efforts, and the Section has been involved in every significant cybercrime case in our District since its inception.

The Cyber & Intellectual Property Crimes Section investigates and prosecutes computer and network intrusion and impairment crimes, including both targeted data theft and destruction and crime-as-a-service models for widespread malicious attacks on computers, whether for profit, revenge, espionage, or other motives.   It also focuses on dark web markets and services that enable the sale and exchange of the fruits of these crimes and the sale and development of tools to make it ever easier to become a cybercriminal.   The Section also focuses on intellectual property crimes, such as theft of intellectual property (often through computer intrusions), copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and economic espionage. The Central District is home to sensitive government computer installations, a significant high-tech industry, and the motion picture and recording industries, among many others. Protecting the security of these industries is a priority of the United States Attorney’s Office. The Section also prosecutes cyber threats to individuals including cyber stalking, online threats, “sextortion,” and similar crimes.

As a part of the National Security Division, Cyber AUSAs also focus on cybercrime with nation-state ties, including hacking and economic espionage done at the behest of foreign powers.  These AUSAs also work in conjunction with attorneys from the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section on all matters dealing with National Security.  The prosecutors in all of our cases, of course, rely on the incredible dedication and expertise of cyber investigators at the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service, and other law enforcement partners.  In addition, the Section also provides guidance to prosecutors throughout the Office on technological trends and legal developments in areas of emerging technology.

Because of the global nature of cyber threats, investigating and prosecuting cybercrime poses unique jurisdictional and technical challenges: cybercriminals operating in one foreign jurisdiction might use infrastructure in a second to victimize businesses or individuals located in other countries—all the while employing sophisticated technical methods to both magnify their capability for crime and shield them from law enforcement. Cybercrime is global and, thus, we attack it globally, working closely with foreign governments to address this global problem.

Cybersecurity Outreach

The Office’s cybersecurity efforts are not just focused on prosecuting cybercrime, but on prevention through the promotion of cybersecurity. We use our experience to be better prepared for—and to prevent—the next attack or intrusion.

The Section works with the public and private sectors in developing a greater appreciation for cybersecurity and ensuring a robust response to any cyber threat. We view governments and corporations who are victims of a cyberattack as just that—victims. Training and public outreach are critical components to the USAO’s Cybersecurity Program. As a result, Assistant United States Attorneys are available to speak to the public and private sector about cybersecurity. If you are interested in having an AUSA speak at an event, please contact the Chief of the Cyber & Intellectual Property Crimes Section.

The incessant barrage of these cyberattacks demonstrates the scope and the scale of the challenge we face, as well as the urgency of forging effective solutions. Our Office is committed to bringing perpetrators to justice wherever they may be, disrupting cyber threats, and cementing enduring partnerships across the public and private sectors to ensure that our data, and our economy, are secure and protected from harm.

 

Cybersecurity Resources

Reporting Cyber Crime:

Best Practices for Victim Response and Reporting of Cyber Incidents

Current Threats and Tips:

Updated March 31, 2021

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