In an effort to act on the initiatives assigned to it in the Biden-Harris administration’s National Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan (NCSIP), the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced today that it is “supercharging” its cybercrime division by merging it with the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET).
The DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) will work closely with the NCET to fight ransomware – a strategic objective of the White House’s new NCSIP – two top DoJ officials announced today during a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that we are supercharging CCIPS by adding to it another hugely successful criminal division team,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Nicole Argentieri, said. “Beginning this week, we are merging the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, NCET, into CCIPS – creating a single office that consolidates the criminal division’s expertise in all aspects of fighting cybercrime.”
Argentieri explained that NCET will continue its mission of investigating criminal offenses involving the abuse of cryptocurrency, now within the cybercrime division.
“It’s now time to bring NCET to the next level. NCET, to date, has been an enormously successful startup. Merging it into CCIPS will give it the resources and runway to accomplish even more,” Argentieri said. “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.”
She continued, adding, “This merger elevates cryptocurrency within the criminal division by giving it equal status to computer crime and intellectual property work.”
Merging these two departments, Argentieri said, better positions the DoJ to meet the challenges set out by the White House’s new NCSIP.
“An urgent priority for the merged CCIPS/NCET is the fight against ransomware,” she said. “The National Cybersecurity Strategy highlights ransomware not as only an important concern, but as a threat to national security.”
The White House identified “counter cybercrime, defeat ransomware” as a strategic objective in its NCSIP released last week. The DoJ, alongside the FBI, was tasked with spearheading or contributing to all five initiatives that fall under this strategic objective – including disrupting ransomware crimes and supporting international, private, and state entities in mitigating ransomware risk.
“This new supercharged CCIPS, merged with NCET, will use its combined expertise to answer this urgent call,” Argentieri said. “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 ransomware payments and freezing or seizing them before they go to Russia or other ransomware hotspots.”
Kenneth Polite, the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, said during the CSIS event today that the White House charging DoJ with nearly 40 percent of the initiatives in the NCSIP is a “testament to our crucial role in this country’s cybersecurity equation.”
“Computer intrusions are crimes. Running a botnet is a crime. Ransomware is a crime, and disrupting crimes is what the criminal division does,” Polite said.
Polite currently serves as the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, but announced at the CSIS event today that he is leaving his post next week, and beginning in August, Argentieri will oversee the merged CCIPS/NCET mission as the acting assistant attorney general for the criminal division.
“I would like to note how much work remains for us to do,” Argentieri concluded. “We in the Department of Justice are acutely aware of how serious the cybercrime problem is. We also understand how much responsibility has been placed in the department to disrupt cyberattacks, and when possible, to bring cybercriminals to justice. I hope that our work and our announcement today show how we plan to execute that responsibility.”