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Summary: U.S.-Iran Sanctions Strategy Going Forward

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  • Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

The conversation focused on the Justice Department’s advances in countering cyber threats and the importance of establishing legal precedents to deter future attacks.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin highlighted the damage these activities are inflicting on the U.S. economy, which is losing billions of dollars from the data being exfiltrated by foreign hackers. In response, the Justice Department’s National Security Division retrained hundreds of prosecutors across the country in 2012 to work on the criminal and intelligence sides of these issues. Through this program, the U.S. government was able to “open a door” between the legal and intelligence divisions in the same manner in which it did with terrorism cases following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

As examples, Carlin discussed the Justice Department’s indictment of five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398 for stealing proprietary information from U.S. companies. He noted that the pattern of their online activity suggested the hackers were working eight-hour dayshifts as their job in the Chinese army. He stressed that the United States needs to prevent this type of behavior from becoming permissible under international law.

Addressing the role of the private sector in this effort, Carlin praised Sony for doing the “right thing” by sharing information with the U.S. government. Its cooperation allowed the government to determine conclusively that North Korea was behind the cyberattack. The Sony case also led to an executive order last year allowing the government to sanction not only the specific actors that commit cyber hacking but those that benefit from the theft.

Having recently returned from Detroit, Carlin emphasized the need for both the private sector and government to anticipate future threats and vulnerabilities. One study he cited predicted that by 2020, about 75 percent of cars on the road will be internet-enabled and in another 20 years, self-driving cars will be a $40 billion industry. He argued that criminals, governments, and terrorists tend to go where U.S. technology goes. Therefore, the United States should not repeat the mistakes of the past of moving too quickly without first investing on the front-end to make these systems are secure.