The feds are creating a ‘strike force’ to protect technology from foreign theft

The U.S. government will launch a new “strike force” to protect American technology from theft and block threats to critical assets like semiconductors, a top law enforcement official announced on Thursday. 

In prepared remarks at London’s Chatham House, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the “Disruptive Technology Strike Force,” which will be led by the Departments of Justice and Commerce.

“Our goal is simple but essential — to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon our best technology,” Monaco said.

The U.S. will deploy “all its tools to respond to nation-states who would exploit technology to undermine our alliances, our national security and the rule of law,” she said. “We will use intelligence and data analytics to target illicit actors, enhance public-private partnerships to harden supply chains, and identify early warning of threats to our critical assets, like semiconductors.”

The speech comes at a time when alleged Chinese spying is at the top of the headlines, with four unmanned objects believed to belong to Beijing recently having been shot down over North America. On Wednesday semiconductor company ASML said a former employee in China stole chip data. Federal prosecutors have recently won cases involving economic espionage connected to China.

In her speech, Monaco emphasized that the national security equation has shifted since she was President Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser, with “rogue” nation-states increasingly furthering their aims in cyberspace. 

“When it comes to cyberspace, we see nation-states — often acting in concert with criminal groups in a new, blended, double threat — engaging in more sophisticated, brazen, and dangerous attacks,” she said.

The U.S., along with a coalition of Western allies, recently announced multiple high-profile operations against cybercriminals, including the takedown of Hive ransomware’s infrastructure, after law enforcement covertly gained access to the group’s networks and offered victims decryption keys. Monaco also cited the operation “Cyclops Blink,” in partnership with the U.K., which last year took down a botnet controlled by Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). 

The Biden administration has also been increasingly vigilant about protecting intellectual property — especially technology — from foreign actors. 

Last year, the Department of Commerce enacted export controls to prevent technology related to semiconductors and supercomputing from ending up in China. 

In her comments, Monaco emphasized the threat China’s “civil-military fusion” poses, whereby “any advance by a Chinese company with military application must be shared with the state.” 

“So if a company operating in China collects your data, it is a good bet that the Chinese government is accessing it,” she said.

“The ability to weaponize data will only advance over time, as artificial intelligence and algorithms enable the use of large datasets in increasingly sophisticated ways. The data obtained today could be used in new and frightening ways tomorrow.” 

Joe Warminsky contributed to this article.

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James Reddick

James Reddick

James Reddick has worked as a journalist around the world, including in Lebanon and in Cambodia, where he was Deputy Managing Editor of The Phnom Penh Post. He is also a radio and podcast producer for outlets like Snap Judgment.