U.S. National Security Division Unveils Aggressive Measures to Safeguard Sensitive Data in Corporate Landscape

In a compelling address at the ABA White Collar Conference, the U.S. National Security Division (NSD) signaled a robust response to evolving threats, transitioning from a historical focus on terrorism to confront capable nation-state adversaries.

Assistant Attorney General Katherine Lawton outlined the Department of Justice’s intensified efforts, particularly addressing corporate engagement in national security tools like sanctions and export controls.

Corporate Front Lines in National Security:

Lawton emphasized the critical role corporations play in enforcing national security tools, making daily decisions that impact the country’s safety.

She highlighted the elevated stakes, showcasing how enforcement tools obstruct adversaries like Iran, China, and North Korea from supporting weapons programs, engaging in espionage, and advancing military capabilities.

Enforcement Achievements:

The Assistant Attorney General shared notable successes in corporate enforcement, underscoring the department’s commitment.

Instances of guilty pleas from major corporations for material support to terrorism and sanctions violations against North Korea were cited as exemplary cases, affirming that NSD will not shy away from holding corporations accountable for jeopardizing national security.

Collaboration and Compliance:

Beyond criminal investigations, Lawton emphasized the collaboration between NSD and the business community to prevent violations of sanctions and export controls.

She underscored the importance of compliance programs and voluntary disclosure policies, citing instances where major companies proactively reported violations, reflecting a shift toward corporate responsibility in safeguarding national security.

Addressing a New Threat:

Lawton transitioned to the evolving landscape of data security, acknowledging the intelligence community’s assertion that adversaries view data as a strategic resource.

The NSD’s new mission involves preventing the exfiltration of sensitive data from U.S. victims.

Lawton emphasized the urgency, citing the President’s recent Executive Order that empowers the Justice Department to block countries threatening national security from accessing Americans’ sensitive personal data.

Proposed Regulatory Measures:

The Assistant Attorney General detailed the comprehensive approach, including the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), a strategy for enforcement and compliance, and significant staffing increases.

The regulatory program aims to protect seven categories of sensitive data, including health, financial, and genomic information, signaling a commitment to closing potential avenues for adversaries to exploit sensitive American data.

Corporate Responsibilities and Recommendations:

Lawton concluded with advice for corporations, urging them to understand their data, review agreements for data transactions, scrutinize data access, and assess data sales transactions.

Emphasizing that compliance programs must be tailored to individualized risk profiles, she urged companies to proactively address these considerations, aligning their practices with national security imperatives.

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