The agency has been granted new and important roles under the Biden administration’s plan to safeguard U.S. digital networks.
The Department of Justice announced a new merger of two of its offices Thursday as the agency starts putting the Biden administration’s National Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan into effect.
Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team will be consolidated into a single office to better regulate the abuse of cryptocurrency trading.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri will oversee this new office as the acting assistant attorney general for Justice’s Criminal Division.
“Merging [NCET] into CCIPS will give it the resources and runway to accomplish even more,” she said. “The potential for crossover and collaboration is enormous. It's become obvious to everyone in the cybercrime field that cryptocurrency work and cyber prosecutions are intertwined and will become even more so in the future.”
The merger focuses on elevating cryptocurrency crimes to the same status as other prosecutable computer and intellectual property crimes. It also allocates more department resources to investigating and litigating these crimes, following the agency’s new roles as outlined in the recently released cybersecurity implementation plan.
Fighting ransomware, especially against critical infrastructure networks, will also be “supercharged” following the combined expertise available from the merger, according to Argentieri.
“CCIPS cybercrime experts will investigate ransomware cases and NCET cryptocurrency specialists will pursue all available opportunities to track criminals through their ransomware payments, vigorously pursuing cryptocurrency payments and freezing or seizing them before they go to Russia or other ransomware hotspots,” Argentieri said.
Justice’s renewed role as part of President Joe Biden’s National Cybersecurity Strategy follows an increasing level of severe cyberattacks across various sectors like energy and finance in the U.S. As cyber safety and national security become increasingly intertwined, Justice’s role has been expanded to help police these incidents through a focus on emerging cyberthreats and increased interagency collaboration, such as with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“Both the strategy and the implementation plan give the Department of Justice, including the Criminal Division, a crucial role,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said alongside Argentieri on Thursday. He added that Justice is slated to lead nine initiatives under the new implementation plan, playing a role in roughly 40% of the plan’s efforts.
“Well before the strategy and implementation plan, the Criminal Division has been engaged, consistent with that strategy's goal of protecting the American people from cyber attacks,” Polite noted.
In addition to arresting and prosecuting individuals associated with cybercrimes, Polite noted that Justice’s Criminal Division is focused on disrupting and preventing digital crime as it becomes more pervasive.
“Computer intrusions are crimes. Running a botnet is a crime. Ransomware is a crime and disrupting crimes is what the Criminal Division does,” he said.