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New Section Enhances U.S. Justice Department’s Cyber Threat Response Capabilities

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of a new section to boost the department’s capacity to disrupt and respond to malicious cyber activity.

The new National Security Cyber Section—known as NatSec Cyber—of cyber-focused prosecutors will “give us the horsepower and organizational structure we need to carry out key roles of the Department in this arena,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen from the DOJ National Security Division (NSD). “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.”

The new section secured congressional approval and was developed in response to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s cyber review of the government in July 2022 and the National Cybersecurity Strategy from March 2023, which called for cross-agency collaboration to address cybercrime. NatSec Cyber will help promote DOJ-wide and intergovernmental partnerships around cybersecurity while addressing aggressive nation-state cyber threats, according to a DOJ press release. The section will also serve as a resource for FBI field offices and U.S. Attorneys General offices.

This move elevates cyber threats to stand on equal footing with other major national security issues such as counterterrorism.

In remarks on 20 June, Olsen noted that the DOJ has become significantly more effective in identifying, addressing, and eliminating cyber threats. He cited examples such as a “20-year prison sentence for an individual who leveraged teams of hackers and insiders in a multi-faceted espionage campaign targeting American and European aviation companies on behalf of [People’s Republic of China] intelligence,” and the recent charges against three Iranians who allegedly conducted a ransomware campaign targeting hospitals, local governments, and organizations.

“We are holding individuals accountable, imposing consequences, and using our indictments to inform the public about the nature of the threats we face, and our adversaries that their actions are not as deniable as they’d like to think,” Olsen said.

NatSec Cyber ramps up the department’s ability to proactively investigate and mitigate cyber threats. Since the department started focusing on cyber crimes in 2014, “NSD has been leading the charge with just a handful of dedicated cyber prosecutors, operating on grit, coffee, and a shoestring budget,” Olsen said. NatSec Cyber enables the NSD to increase the scale and speed of disruption campaigns and prosecute nation-state threat actors.