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2020 Budget Proposal Makes Cybersecurity, Cybercrime Priorities

On Monday, March 11, 2019, the White House released its 2020 Budget Proposal. The federal government’s plan for Fiscal Year 2020, A Budget for a Better America, is a robust 150-page proposal packed with all types of economic adjustments for the financial health of the federal government.

While many are calling attention to the budget’s call to bolster funding in areas like defense and border walls, while also cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and subsidized student loans through structural reforms, there are also interesting updates regarding how the budget addresses cybersecurity, investigations, and criminal law enforcement involving cybercrime.

Where the Funding Goes for Cyber

In addition to funding more cybersecurity personnel and resources for the Department of Homeland Security and its Cyber Talent Management System, the federal government’s civilian cyber agency, the budget dedicated billions to cybersecurity operations within the Department of Defense. That nearly $10 billion of the $4.7 trillion budget aims to improve DOD network systems, and its cyber military and cyber workforces.

In terms of crime, the budget briefly touches on funding for national security efforts, criminal justice reform in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and billions of dollars dedicated to multi-agency efforts targeting violent and drug-related crimes.

A not-insignificant amount of that funding explicitly relates to cybercrime:

  • FBI Cybercrime Tech Improvements – An additional $70 million will be added to the FBI’s cybercrime budget to improve technologies, and implement a more comprehensive strategy for targeting unlawful cyber actions under federal jurisdiction. The agency already devotes millions of dollars, nearly 2,000 positions, and over 900 agents to this initiative.
  • National Cyber Risks – The Department of Justice’s National Security Division is also seeking an 8.5% increase in funding to cover its initiatives for combating national cybercrime risks, as well as evaluating foreign-based U.S. investments and exports. The budget will also dedicate funds to national security cyber risks.
  • Financial Cyber and Cryptocurrency Crimes – Close to $170 million for the Department of Treasury’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will be used to enhance efforts of the Financial Crime Enforcement Network’s program for combatting financially related cybercrime and cryptocurrency threats, including various white collar crimes facilitated by use of tech.
  • Anonymous Online Drug Trafficking – Since the takedown of Silk Road, the largest online dark net market that offered consumers the convenience of an online marketplace with anonymity when their transactions involved, among other things, controlled substances, the feds have been focused on drug trafficking and distribution through the internet. A large part of their crackdown on online drug crimes, which commonly use cryptocurrencies, stems from a larger focus on tackling America’s opioid crisis, and specifically drugs like heroin, OxyContin, and fentanyl.

The Budget has implications for the entire federal government, which is why it’s understandably brief in describing precisely how that funding will be used to support cybercrime enforcement efforts. Still it is clear a focus on computer crimes, internet crimes, and fraud facilitated through technical means and cryptocurrencies are becoming a larger focus for lawmakers. We’ve seen that in the several specialized task forces which have been created in recent years, as well as the rising number of cyber-related investigations and prosecutions which pose substantial terms of imprisonment to indicted defendants.

A Leading Cybercrime Defense Law Firm in Ohio

As the federal government continues to bolster its work investigating and enforcing cybercrime, it’s easy to understand how lawmakers may lack the technological literacy to propose, endorse, or pass meaningful legislation that appropriately address cybercrime, and adequately ensure the rights of individuals under investigation or indictment.

Like many matters of the law where enforcement efforts are influenced by other factors or pressure from certain proponents, laws surrounding cybercrime, as well as the tactics the government uses to enforce them, are not always complete nor entirely clear, or what some consider “competently” based on true understanding of the highly complex elements involved.

What this means is that much of the future of cybercrime laws could very well be shaped by the courts, judicial decisions, and the work of talented and knowledgeable defense lawyers who represent defendants facing these types of charges. The evolution of sensible cybercrime laws, similar to laws surrounding marijuana DUIs, will surely take time. For those facing investigations or charges today, that slow progress makes working with experienced attorneys all the more important.

Charged with a cybercrime in Cleveland or the state of Ohio? Call (888) 694-4645 or contact Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C., Attorneys at Law using our online case evaluation form to speak with an attorney.

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