DOJ Official Warns of Escalating Cyberattacks

The Justice Department has seen a rise in ransomware and supply-chain attacks. Combating them won’t be easy.

(Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — An assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division expressed his concern over the rise of cybersecurity threats on Thursday afternoon, warning U.S. adversaries are ramping up online attacks.  

John C. Demers was speaking at a fireside chat during the Justice Department’s third annual cybersecurity symposium. He said rapid technological advancement has made it easier for countries to commit fraud through supply-chain attacks and ransomware tools. 

“The new stove I bought has its own TikTok account,” Demers joked during the virtual conference. 

North Korea may not be able to compete with the United States on a political or economic level, he explained, but they’ve built a stronger cyber force capable of causing major international disruptions. 

In February, for example, three North Korean hackers were charged with fraud and conspiracy over the electronic theft of up to $1.3 billion from entertainment companies, financial institutions, cryptocurrency companies, online casinos and others.

Nations use cyberattacks as a tool to gain more power on the international stage, Demers explained. While the Justice Department can’t convict every hacker in foreign countries, they can issue indictments, which often prevent the hackers from finding lucrative employment opportunities. 

When the Justice Department pursues a cybersecurity threat, “we attribute down to the individual level,” Demers said. “We don’t say ‘This was China, this was Russia.’” 

The discussion came three days after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced a wide-reaching review of the department’s strategies for combating cybersecurity threats. 

Large-scale cyberattacks, like the recent SolarWinds hack out of Russia, have accelerated in recent years, and many of the perpetrators use U.S.-based infrastructure to launch their attacks. 

“It has exploded, it has become more diffuse, more sophisticated, more dangerous than ever before,” Monaco said at a security conference in Germany. 

“We need to rethink and really assess,” she said, “are we using the most effective strategies against this kind of new evolution, this pivot point that I think we’re at today in the cyber threat?” 

Monaco stated that the department wants to bring forth “actionable recommendations” to tackle the emerging threats within four months. 

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