The news surrounding cyber security is increasingly alarming as hackers seem to breach private and municipal computer systems with impunity. In response, the Department of Justice announced a Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative that will combat emerging threats to critical systems and sensitive information. The goal is to motivate companies to report these illegal actions rather than keep them a secret if dealing with a breach.
“We are announcing today that we will use our civil enforcement tools to pursue companies,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, “those who are government contractors who receive federal funds, when they fail to follow required cybersecurity standards — because we know that puts all of us at risk. This is a tool that we have to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately and guard the public fisc and public trust.”
The goal is to develop actionable recommendations to enhance and expand efforts against cyber threats. Drawing upon the same tools employed by the False Claims Act to pursue fraud by government contractors and grant recipients, the DOJ will step up efforts to address misuse of federal funds and property that are part of operations or programs. It also appears that the DOJ will be more willing to intervene in qui tam cases as well.
The new initiative allows employees or individuals to assist the government in identifying and pursuing misconduct where these companies knowingly expose or fail to monitor potential and report cyber security incidents. It includes:
- Holding contractors and grantees to their commitments
- Ensuring that they follow the rules and invest in meeting cybersecurity standards
- Reimburse the government and taxpayers for losses caused by breaches due to error
- Generally improve cybersecurity practices to benefit the American public, private users and the government
Say something if you see something
It is essential to identify fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. Along with the satisfaction of helping the country and its people, whistleblowers will share in the recovery of misused funds and enjoy all the usual protections under the law. Those who wish to report cyber-related matters to the DOJ’s civil division can go here. However, it is always advised to speak with an attorney with whistleblowing experience to help ensure that claims are properly addressed.