DOJ to create dedicated cybersecurity unit

The Justice Department is creating a dedicated cybersecurity unit within its criminal division, a top official revealed Thursday.

The unit will provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance investigations and will work with Congress on cybersecurity legislation, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said during a speech at Georgetown University’s law school, according to prepared remarks.

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“Given the growing complexity and volume of cyberattacks, as well as the intricate rubric of laws and investigatory tools needed to thwart the attacks, the cybersecurity unit will play an important role in this field,” she said.

Housed within the department’s computer crime and intellectual property section, the unit will coordinate with the private sector as well as government officials.

Industry groups have been pressing the government to expand its ability to exchange cyber information with them.

“This is a fight that the government cannot and will not wage alone,” Caldwell said.

The unit is also intended to assuage privacy concerns among Americans.

Since former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed a number of secret spy programs, public mistrust of government has risen dramatically.

Caldwell believes “this kind of mistrust can hamper investigations and cybersecurity efforts.”

Companies like Apple and Google have promoted enhanced encryption they claim will keep law enforcement from accessing data on their mobile devices.

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

The new DOJ cyber team, Caldwell said, will “ensure that the powerful law enforcement tools are effectively used to bring the perpetrators [of crimes] to justice while also protecting the privacy of everyday Americans.”