Brandon Van Grack and Joseph Folio authored an article for Lawfare covering the U.S. Department of Justice’s unprecedented resolution of criminal charges against three former U.S. military and intelligence members for conspiring to conduct computer network exploitation operations on behalf of a foreign government, the United Arab Emirates.
“In addition to the novelty of prosecuting former U.S. intelligence operatives for hacking, the case marks the first time the department has charged hacking as a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” the authors wrote. “Yet, for all the fanfare, the department resolved the charges with a deferred prosecution agreement, a rarely used and extraordinarily lenient resolution. Under the agreement, the criminal charges will be dropped in three years if the defendants do not violate the agreement’s terms.”
They further explained: “On its face, the U.S. government appears to be sending mixed signals by investigating a case criminally and resolving it with an apparent slap on the wrist. However, companies and individuals engaged in this kind of work – providing offensive cyber services or exploits to foreign governments or foreign companies – should be wary. The resolution’s leniency reflects the unique circumstances of this case rather than a commitment to treat similar conduct the same way. To the contrary, the case seems to presage a new wave of investigations into the sale of offensive cyber services and indicates that the department is unlikely to be so kind the next time.”
Read the full article.