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Reigel Looks Back at Busy Year


FBI Cyber Exec Lou Reigel

On a stealthy tour of a bustling market in China last fall, Lou Reigel, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, witnessed a crime in progress. Surrounded by knock-off versions of U.S. merchandise, Reigel cast his eyes on a high-end golf bag identical to his own—but at a fraction of the cost. Then a salesman plied him with a popular U.S. brand of jeans, also on the cheap. He didn’t bite, of course, but the threat to U.S. businesses—an estimated $50 billion a year in lost revenues—was clear.

The bogus merchandise, likely the end result of intellectual property theft, is one of the many fronts facing the Cyber Division, which investigates everything from hackers to Internet child porn to the theft of trade secrets. Reigel, who retired at the end of February after a year in charge of the Cyber Division and 31 years at the Bureau, spent the last year forging new relationships with U.S. companies and other federal agencies. He presided at a time when online threats—to individuals and companies—have become more brazen and sophisticated. He talked to us about his accomplishments and the challenges we face in the future.

Q. What were your biggest successes over the past 12 months?

Reigel: The development of our relationship with private industry. We’ve become more aggressive not only in our InfraGard program, a partnership with U.S. businesses, but in the computer intrusion section’s outreach. We’ve made a lot of progress with industry starting to trust us. They now know we’ll protect their privacy. They’re coming to us when they’ve been hacked, where in the past there was a hesitancy to reach out for help.

Q. What challenges do you see down the road?

Reigel: Cyber crime is expanding. Computer intrusions, particularly from Asian and Eastern European countries, are going to continue to grow and get more complicated. Hackers are getting more sophisticated. It’s a business and they’ve become organized in their efforts. In Innocent Images, we have about 2,500 federal cases ongoing every single month and that number continues to grow. We just changed the priority for Innocent Images—it used to be our number-three priority—to number-two, behind computer intrusions.

Q. Can you tell us more about your trip to China?

Reigel: I met with China’s counterpart to the FBI, the Ministry of Public Security, during a week-long trip. I think I was successful in opening the door at least an inch or two, where we will begin to exchange information and work cases. They were pleased to see me come over. They understand how critical the intellectual property rights program is to the FBI and to America, so they understand that this is not something that is going to go away and they need to get on board with it.

Q. Do you have suggestions for people to protect themselves online?

Reigel: When it comes to children, we strongly recommend the computer be in a central location. And we tell parents, “Do not let your children give out a true name, address, and particularly a photograph. Never let you child post a photograph, period.” Parents also need to employ tracking mechanisms on their computers and talk to their kids about what’s out there. It’s not all pretty.

Resources: InfraGard | Innocent Images | FBI Cyber Division | Reigel Briefs Press About Cyber Crime