January 01, 2017

Confronting Cyber Threats and the Mission of the Department of Justice

Matthew J. Sheehan and Andrew A. Proia

The malicious use of technology poses an unprecedented threat against the United States. This threat has increased as, over the last several years, networked devices have become more prevalent in our daily lives. According to a recent report by Cisco Systems, in 2016, there were 7.8 networked devices per capita in the United States; this figure is forecasted to increase to 13.2 per capita by 2021. The range of actors who plan to use cyber intrusions and attacks to harm our government, victimize consumers and businesses, and endanger public safety and national security will only grow. These criminals, nation states, terrorists, and other adversaries endanger a central pillar of our national and economic security, and imperil a critical aspect of our way of life: our use of, and reliance on, digital technology and communications.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is well situated and ready to confront this evolving threat. At the ABA Young Lawyers Division Spring Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, a panel will be assembled for a program entitled Confronting Cyber Threats and the Mission of the Department of Justice. The panel will discuss the role of federal law enforcement in combatting the global cyber threat and will cover a range of issues, including the evolving nature of the most significant cyber threats facing the United States; DOJ’s use of an “all tools” approach to defend against and respond to malicious cyber activity; the key investigative techniques and sources of evidence used by DOJ; investigators’ disruption of malware, botnet, distributed denial of service, and ransomware attacks; and the role of the private sector in tackling cyber threats.

The panel will also focus on issues confronting DOJ’s internal workforce. Combatting cyber threats requires developing and maintaining a broad cadre of highly trained prosecutors, lawyers, agents, and analysts. Over the past decade, we have witnessed an increasing demand for law enforcement professionals with a deep knowledge of the laws, policies, and ethics related to the DOJ’s cyber-related activities. In fact, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education’s Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, which provides a blueprint to categorize, organize, and describe standard cyber professionals, recommends that organizations acquire legal advice and advocacy talent to help protect their networks and information systems. Whether they are identifying and locating cyber threat actors, collecting vital evidence through lawful process, or developing the latest tools to overcome sophisticated technologies criminals use to conceal their activities, DOJ personnel must understand how technology both facilitates cyber-criminal activity and can be used lawfully to detect, disrupt, and dismantle that activity. Accordingly, there are many opportunities at DOJ for young lawyers interested in cybersecurity law and policy.

The ABA Young Lawyers Division Spring Conference will be held May 10–12 in Louisville, Kentucky. Register today! 

Matthew J. Sheehan and Andrew A. Proia

Matthew J. Sheehan is counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the US Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Andrew A. Proia is an attorney advisor at the US Department of Justice, Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties.