|THE CYBER THREAT
Using Intelligence to Predict and Prevent
Terrorists plotting and scheming anonymously online—and posting videos on how to build everything from backpack bombs to bio-weapons.
Spies, hired cyber mercenaries, and criminal syndicates worming their way into government networks, attempting to steal our nation’s most sensitive secrets.
Criminal hackers using seemingly innocuous information about a business and its employees to create highly-realistic yet bogus e-mails that can give them a back door into a company’s network and even a permanent window into everything it does.
On Thursday, FBI Director Robert Mueller talked about these and other cyber threats—along with how we are working with partners around the globe to tackle them—during a keynote address at the annual RSA computer security conference in San Francisco.
The Director said that our intelligence indicates the threat of cyber terror is “real and rapidly expanding,” including the rise of extremist websites that recruit, radicalize, and incite violence.
Terrorists have yet to launch a full-scale cyber strike, but have “executed numerous denial-of-service attacks” and even defaced the website of the U.S. Congress following President Obama’s recent State of the Union address. The Director told the crowd of cyber professionals that al Qaeda and other extremists “have shown a clear interest in pursuing hacking skills. And they will either train their own recruits or hire outsiders, with an eye toward combining physical attacks with cyber attacks.”
While the threat is evolving, the FBI’s cyber capabilities and range of partnerships and intelligence-driven initiatives continue to grow and mature. According to the Director, today we have:
There’s also the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force—created and led by the FBI—which brings together 17 law enforcement and intelligence agencies to “predict and prevent what is on the horizon and to pursue the enterprises behind these attacks.” The Director indicated that the task force works through “Threat Focus Cells—smaller groups of agents, officers, and analysts from different agencies focused on particular threats.” One cell, for example, targets high-priority botnets that can take over computers and use them to commit all kinds of crimes.
The Director emphasized that our relationship with the private sector is vital and that we count on companies reporting breaches of cyber security. “No one country, company, or agency can stop cyber crime,” he said. “A ‘bar the windows and bolt the doors’ mentality will not ensure our collective safety. … We must start at the source; we must find those responsible.”