Department of Justice Officials Explain New Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative

November 10, 2021.  This fall, the Department of Justice unveiled a new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative which will be empowered to use the False Claims Act to pursue government contractors who have committed cybersecurity fraud.  Officials in the Department of Justice’s Civil Division clarified this week that the initiative will be focused on the following types of government contractor misconduct if committed “knowingly” and involving “material” breaches of standards:

  1. The failure to comply with statutory, regulatory or contractual cybersecurity standards governing a procurement of information technology products or services;
  2. Misrepresentations of cybersecurity practices regardless of whether the procurement is for IT products or services; and,
  3. Failure to timely report a suspected breach of cybersecurity requirements.

Insiders are ideally situated to report these types of fraudulent schemes, particularly when they have the technical expertise to comprehend the nature of the breach and explain its ramifications to laypersons.  At the Aspen Institute’s Cyber Summit, Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco promised, “we will protect whistleblowers who bring those violations and those failures forward.”

The new initiative flows out of the Biden administration’s recent effort to secure the federal government’s digital systems in the wake of the breach of SolarWinds, a government contractor, by suspected agents of the Russian government.  As part of this effort, on May 12, 2021, the President signed an executive order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” which directed government agencies to strengthen their cybersecurity standards and those of the contractors that they work with.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has announced that the new Biden Administration initiative will use the Department’s civil enforcement tools to pursue government contractors that “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.” She also ensured, “We will extract very hefty fines.”

Vogel, Slade, & Goldstein has vast experience representing whistleblowers in government contractor fraud suits and is well positioned to assist on a matter involving false statements or false claims relating to cybersecurity.