Sign of the times? US Department of Justice creates a specialist cyber unit within its National Security Division
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is responding to the growing need for legal specialists in cyber with the creation of a dedicated unit.
The DoJ announced on Tuesday a new section within its National Security Division focused on pursuing cyber threats from nation-state and state-backed hackers.
Last month for example the US DoJ charged a Russian national with carrying out ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure and offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Now the DoJ move to create a dedicated litigating cyber unit essentially formalises a growing part of the national security environment into the Justice Department’s hierarchy.
The new National Security Cyber Section – known as NatSec Cyber – within its National Security Division. The DoJ said the newly established section has secured congressional approval and comes in response to the findings in Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco’s Comprehensive Cyber Review in July of 2022.
“NatSec Cyber will give us the horsepower and organisational structure we need to carry out key roles of the Department in this arena,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“This new section will allow NSD to increase the scale and speed of disruption campaigns and prosecutions of nation-state threat actors, state-sponsored cybercriminals, associated money launderers, and other cyber-enabled threats to national security,” said Olsen.
The DoJ stated that the National Security Cyber Section will increase the Justice Department’s capacity to disrupt and respond to malicious cyber activity, while promoting Department-wide and intragovernmental partnerships in tackling increasingly sophisticated and aggressive cyber threats by hostile nation-state adversaries.
The new section will, according to the DoJ, bolster collaboration between key partners, notably the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the FBI’s Cyber Division and will serve as a valuable resource for prosecutors in the 94 US Attorneys’ Offices and 56 FBI Field Offices across the country.
“Responding to highly technical cyber threats often requires significant time and resources,” Olsen added. “NatSec Cyber will serve as an incubator, able to invest in the time-intensive and complex investigative work for early-stage cases.”
The DoJ said the announcement builds upon recent successes in identifying, addressing and eliminating national security cyber threats, including the charging of an alleged cybercriminal with ransomware attacks against US critical infrastructure and disruption the Russian government’s premier cyberespionage malware tool.
There was no mention of China amid the new section announcement, but last week CISA Director Jen Easterly described China as an “epoch-defining threat.”