DOJ Issues Plan on Cyber Threats, Foreign Meddling

The Justice Department issued a wide-ranging report describing the cyber threats facing the U.S. and the department’s tactics for investigating, disrupting and deterring those risks, Politico reports. The report contains the first public description of how the DOJ will assess and respond to foreign influence operations like Russia’s 2016 election meddling. “That policy reflects an effort to articulate neutral principles so that when the issue that the government confronted in 2016 arises again — as it surely will — there will be a framework to address it,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the Aspen Security Forum.The  report describes a range of challenges hampering the government’s ability to fight traditional cybercrime and recommends possible solutions.

The challenge that receives the most attention is encryption and other technological impediments to accessing investigative data. The spread of easy-to-use, often-invisible encryption “poses a significant impediment to the investigation of most types of criminal activity,” the report warns. A lengthy chapter on foreign influence operations describes five categories of meddling, from hacking election infrastructure to spreading disinformation. It lays out a policy for disclosing foreign meddling investigations to their targets, tech companies whose platforms are involved, lawmakers and the public. This meddling “may violate a number of federal laws on which the Department may base criminal investigations and prosecutions,” the report says, but DOJ is “also considering whether new criminal statutes aimed more directly at this type of activity are needed.” At the Aspen event, Rosenstein said the report underscored how DOJ “must continually adapt criminal justice and intelligence tools to combat hackers and other cybercriminals.”