Technology

Justice Department creates new cybersecurity unit

"It is important that we address cyber threats on multiple fronts," U.S. assistant attorney general says

The U.S. Justice Department created a new cybersecurity unit within its criminal division to deter, investigate and prosecute criminals hacking their way through the virtual world.

The unit, part of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section, will work alongside Congress, international law enforcement agencies and the private sector, the agency said Thursday.

“It is important that we address cyber threats on multiple fronts, with both a robust enforcement strategy as well as a broad prevention strategy,” U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. Leslie R. Caldwell said during a cybercrime conference.

Two cyberattacks targeting the banking system cost the global financial system $45 million over the course of just a few hours last year, Caldwell said.

“Let me emphasize, that figure is not a speculative estimate or a projection,” she said. “That is the sum total of money that the perpetrators withdrew from banks around the world by breaking into bank computers and removing limits on the amount of money they could withdraw from ATM machines.”

The government convicted 13 defendants in the heist.

Caldwell said much more could be done to ensure online safety, but growing public distrust of law enforcement surveillance could harm cybersecurity efforts.

Americans believe they have lost control over their personal information, and a majority are concerned about the monitoring of their communications by both government and businesses.

About 80% of those responding in a Pew Research Center survey last month said Americans should be concerned about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and internet communications.

“Most of this mistrust," Caldwell said, "comes from misconceptions about the technical abilities of the law enforcement tools and the manners in which they are used."

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