In recent weeks, Justice has begun training more than 300 lawyers in Washington and nearly 100 more across the county in the legal and technical skills needed to confront the increase in cyber threats to national security.
Justice officials would not release the cyber security review, but they said its conclusions led to the major realignment.
“We are very vulnerable,” John Carlin, the principal deputy in Justice’s national security division, said in an interview. “Terrorists groups are saying publicly want they want to do – knock down the stock exchange and disrupt the electrical grid. We need to be more focused on this threat and we need to be ready.”
Justice lawyers are grappling with two distinct categories of national security threats from the Internet. One danger is from terrorists plotting full-scale cyber attacks and the other comes from hackers, cyber criminals and foreign governments stealing trade secrets from the private sector and sensitive classified information from the military and government agencies.
“Other than a weapon of mass destruction going off in one of our major cities, this is the most significant threat to our economy and national security,” said Shawn Henry, who just retired as the FBI’s top cyber sleuth, and now works with companies infiltrated by foreign intelligence services. “The amount of electronic espionage going on is unprecedented.”
In a key advance, a law enforcement individual said, federal investigators have developed the ability to monitor computer screens in real-time as data is being stolen by foreign countries, which will help with counter-espionage investigations. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the investigations.
“This threat is real, it’s present, it’s growing and it touches virtually everything we do from counterterrorism to counterespionage to our intelligence operations,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco. “Just as we realigned our counterterrorism efforts after 9/11, we are realigning our cyber efforts to meet this challenge.”
Justice’s increased focus on cyber espionage and terrorism is being spearheaded by its national security division, which was created in 2006 as one of the government’s post-Sept. 11 reforms. The idea behind NSD, the first new Justice division since 1957, was to create a single unit of intelligence lawyers and criminal prosecutors to work with U.S. attorneys’ offices and the FBI to help prevent terrorist attacks.