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Hearing of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee - Investigating and Prosecuting 21st Century Cyber Threats


Location: Washington, DC

Chairman Goodlatte: The 21st century has brought us a more connected, inter-dependent world. The Internet and portable computer systems make it possible for people, businesses and governments to interact on a global level never seen before.

The United States, with its bounty of personal freedom and free enterprise, is a leader in advancing the technology that enables us to stay in touch almost everywhere with almost everyone.

However, our technological advancement also makes the United States increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks -- from routine cyber crimes to nation-state espionage. Earlier this week, we all heard about the high profile cyber breach that exposed sensitive personal and financial information about high-ranking government officials and celebrities from FBI Director Mueller and Attorney General Holder to Beyonce and Donald Trump. The truth is that all citizens are vulnerable to these kinds of cyber attacks.

We are also currently experiencing a profound cyber-spying conflict on the nation-state level. Most Americans are familiar with the Wikileaks case, which resulted in the public disclosure of hundreds of thousands of secret State Department cables. And many of us are familiar with the cyber attack on the Chamber of Commerce, in which Chinese hackers gained access to the files on the Chamber's 3 million member companies.

But these cyber intrusions are just the tip of the iceberg. In November, 2011, the National Counterintelligence Executive, the agency responsible for countering foreign spying on the U.S. government, issued a report that hackers and illicit programmers in China and Russia are pursuing American technology and industrial secrets, jeopardizing an estimated $398 billion in U.S. research spending. According to the report, "China and Russia view themselves as strategic competitors of the United States and are the most aggressive collectors of U.S. economic information and technology." The report drew on 2009-2011 data from at least 13 agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And in January of this year, the New York Times reported it has been the victim of a sustained cyber attack by Chinese hackers. Shortly afterward, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also reported they too had been breached by similar sources. The Times commissioned a report from Mandiant, a private investigative agency, which traced the cyber attacks to a unit of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. According to the report, the Chinese are engaged in massive cyber spying on the American industrial base and in areas the Chinese are trying to develop for their own national purposes.

Just yesterday, for the first time in his annual presentation to Congress, National Intelligence Director James Clapper spoke about cyber-attacks first in his list of possible threats. Although Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee he only saw a "remote chance" of a major cyberattack in the next two years, he warned that such an attack could "cripple America's infrastructure and economy," and was a more immediate and pressing threat to the United States than a major terrorist attack.

Earlier this year, the Administration issued a cyber security Executive Order and Presidential Directive aimed at helping secure America's cyber networks. The Executive Order is a first step towards protecting our public and private networks from attack. But Congress can and must do more. The Judiciary Committee is responsible for ensuring that our federal criminal laws keep pace with the ever-evolving cyber landscape.

Our challenge is to create a legal structure that protects the invaluable government and private information that hackers seek to exploit, while allowing the freedom of thought and expression that made this country great. One thing is clear: cyber attacks can have devastating consequences for citizens, private industry and America's national security and should be treated just as seriously as more traditional crimes by our criminal justice system.

The risks to our national infrastructure, our national wealth, and our citizens are profound, and we must protect them. We must not allow cyber crime to continue to grow and threaten our economy, safety and prosperity.

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