DoJ’s new cybersecurity office to aid in worldwide investigations

By Ginger Whitaker
Federal News Radio

The Justice Department is taking its cyber crime-fighting efforts to a new level with the addition of a new cybersecurity unit. The unit will be operating under DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section, and will serve to offer legal advice for cyber crime investigations worldwide.

Michael Stawasz, deputy chief for computer crime at the Justice Department, said the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section has already been reaching out around the world for nearly 20 years on cyber crime issues. Among the areas the section covers are cyber crime prevention and the ability to collect electronic evidence.

When it comes to the new cybersecurity unit, Stawasz said it is taking a different approach. Rather than the reactive way that the Justice Department has had to deal with cyber crime, after the crimes have occurred, the unit will focus more on preventative measures.

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“We are going to make part of our mission public outreach, and trying to help discuss with companies how cybersecurity can be beneficial,” said Stawasz in an interview on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “The things that we bring are making sure that cybersecurity is implemented consistent with law and with due respect for the privacy of people in implementing monitoring and being able to assist law enforcement quickly in event of a breach.”

The new unit was in the works long before the recent cyber attack against Sony Pictures, which some have said could have gotten past existing industry and government defenses.

“In this case, you saw lots of quick cooperation between many different parts of the government and the company, and I think that aspect is something the government has been preparing for for a long time,” Stawasz said about the Sony Pictures breach.

Stawasz also said the “insider threat,” the idea that potential hackers have assistance from someone within an agency or company, is still a substantial issue to consider. DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section has been working on combating such threats, and Stawasz said his section has made efforts to discuss with Congress the need to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He said at issue is legal uncertainty in cases of people exceeding authorized access.

As for the new unit itself, it is made up of a team of lawyers with experience in a variety of backgrounds, from federal criminal prosecution to the Department of Defense.

The unit’s purpose also extends to international training in conjunction with the Department of State.

“We think it’s important that foreign countries have laws that outlaw the types of computer attacks and intrusions that can harm Americans, and that they have capable investigators in order to prosecute violations of those laws when they occur,” said Stawasz.

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