Fresh off its largest financial seizure ever, the Justice Department said Thursday it is doubling down on U.S. efforts to combat the sharp rise in ransomware attacks worldwide and will now prioritize disrupting cybercriminals before they act.
In a speech to attendees at the annual Munich Cyber Security Conference, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco unveiled several new initiatives by the Justice Department and FBI that she said will speed up their transformations into the kind of high-tech law enforcement agencies required to go after today’s hyperconnected and globalized cybercriminals.
By doing so, she said, the U.S. government is sending a clear message to hackers, crackers and other digital bad actors everywhere: “The long arm of the law can and now will stretch much farther into cyberspace than you think. If you continue to come for us, we will come for you.”
As part of that transformation, Monaco said, federal agents and prosecutors will focus far more intensively on the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in a wide array of malicious activities targeting American citizens and corporations.
“Ransomware and digital extortion – like many other crimes that are fueled by cryptocurrency – only work if the bad guys get paid,which means we have to bust their business model,” Monaco said.
The Justice Department and FBI also will expand their international operations and country-to-country partnerships to better thwart cybercriminals where they live and work, Monaco told the assembled group of security leaders.
In recent years, U.S. efforts to apprehend – and even identify – the perpetrators of massive cyberattacks against U.S. interests have been stymied by their ability to operate in countries like Russia, China and Iran, including at times with those countries’ consent or cooperation.