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Justice Department Creates Cyber Unit to Provide Legal Guidance on Electronic Surveillance

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By Amanda Vicinanzo
Senior Editor of Homeland Security Today
Special to In Homeland Security

Just days after the FBI alerted U.S. businesses to be on the lookout for malicious malware like the kind that took down the internal network of Sony Pictures, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced plans to create a cyber crime unit to advise on electronic surveillance in cyber investigations and work with the private sector to prevent online crime.

Housed within DOJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), the unit will work with Congress, law enforcement and private sector on cybercrime prevention, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said during a speech at the Cybercrime 2020 Symposium at Georgetown Law Center last Thursday.

“Given the growing complexity and volume of cyber attacks, 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,” Caldwell said. “It is important that we address cyber threats on multiple fronts, with both a robust enforcement strategy as well as a broad prevention strategy.”

Caldwell believes the new unit will help counter the growing public distrust of law enforcement surveillance and high-tech investigative techniques in the wake of the massive leak of classified information by former defense contractor Edward Snowden.

Amid debate that privacy and civil liberties are afterthoughts in criminal investigations, Caldwell explained that most of the mistrust boils down to “misconceptions about the technical abilities of the law enforcement tools and the manners in which they are used.”

Caldwell referenced a white paper released by DOJ in May 2014 that addressed uncertainty in the private sector over whether the Electronic Communications Privacy Act prohibits sharing specific types of cyber threat information. Recognizing that the private sector would benefit from a better understanding of how DOJ interprets electronic communications statutes, the white paper presented a legal analysis of how companies could lawfully share information with the government.

Read the full story at Homeland Security Today

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