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New Disruptive Technology Strike Force to Fight Back Against Foreign Governments That Steal Data

by Chris Brook on Thursday March 2, 2023

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The goal of a new government task force is to block foreign adversaries from siphoning sensitive data.

The importance of data security, especially given the sheer value of data, can't be overstated. That's especially the case for the U.S., which is tasked with keeping some of its most sensitive data away from prying eyes like nation state governments.

If you're looking for more evidence that sensitive intellectual property needs to be safeguarded at all costs, look no further than recent efforts taken by the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department.

As part of a new joint Disruptive Technology Strike Force, both the DOJ and the Commerce Department are doubling down their efforts around fighting back against adversaries who steal U.S. tech secrets and attack supply chains.

Comprised of offices in 10 cities, along with experts from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and 14 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in 12 regions, the strike force is designed to combat those who put the country’s national security in jeopardy.

"If these U.S. secrets and data were to fall into the wrong hands - the Commerce Department flagged nation-state adversaries like the People’s Republic of China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea as possible agitators - it could have “the potential to alter the world’s balance of power,” according to assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco elaborated on the formation of the strike force in a talk a few weeks ago at the Chatham House in London.

"We see this aggression playing out not only on battlefields but in economic zones and information spaces – in cyberattacks, the vacuuming up of sensitive data and the exploitation of restricted technology,” Monaco said “…Our goal is simple but essential—to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon off our best technology.”

The DOJ and the Commerce Department didn't detail exactly how the group will fight back against adversaries - Monaco said it would use a combination of real-time intelligence and 21st century data analytics, along with increased intergovernmental collaboration – but the song remains the same. The formation of the strike force continues to underscore how important it is inside the beltway to fight back against the theft of technology and IP.

IP theft is serious business for the U.S. government; a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released a few months ago estimated the U.S. may be losing up to $600 billion from global IP theft every year. That's not to mention the billions lost through cyberattacks over the last several years.

It's something that the Commerce Department has signaled its taking seriously too, announcing in October that it plans to tweak its enforcement program to impose higher penalties against those who export sensitive technology.

"Illegally exporting sensitive technology is not an abstract economic concern – it is a crime with a direct impact on the safety of the American people,” FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said recently.

The formation of the task force comes a few weeks after the White House signed the Protecting American Intellectual Property Act into law, a bill that authorizes sanctions for organizations and individuals who carry out trade secret theft that harms the United States.

All signs suggest this won't be the last of the government's efforts to step up enforcement efforts around the theft of sensitive government data.

Tags:  Government Data Theft

Chris Brook

Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Digital Guardian’s Data Insider blog. He is a cybersecurity writer with nearly 15 years of experience reporting and writing about information security, attending infosec conferences like Black Hat and RSA, and interviewing hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian–acquired by Fortra in 2021–he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site that was a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.

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