Is the FBI Ready to Ward Off Cybersecurity Attacks?

The FBI is understaffed and having trouble attracting computer scientists and cooperation from the private sector to ward off cyber security attacks, a report from the U.S. Department of Justice found. The FBI’s cybersecurity program the Next Gen Cyber Initiative, launched in 2012 is focusing from reacting to cyber attacks to “predicting and preventing them”, But does it work?

The cyber threat

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reported that the frequency and impact of cyber attacks on private sector and government computers increased dramatically in the last decade, and are expected to continue to grow,” the report unveiled. Americans are increasingly victims of cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes. The range of actors conducting intrusions is as complex as it is varied.

Cyber actors include spies from nation-states, organized criminals, terrorists and “hacktivists” who are politically motivated to make a statement through their conduct. Despite the efforts, there are still issues preventing the FBI from fully meeting all of its goals for the Next Gen Cyber Initiative. In particular, researchers found that information is not properly and timely shared among members, and that the human resources department should basically change its strategy.

Next Gen Cyber has a budget of $314 million and a total of 1,333 full-time jobs (including 756 agents). Yet the FBI is having trouble filling jobs for its cybersecurity program. Uncompetitive salaries and rigorous, excessive, background checks are to blame, according to the auditor’s report says. It has not hired 52 of the 134 computer scientists for which it was authorized. In addition, five of its 56 field offices did not have a computer scientist for its Cyber Task Force.

Lack of cooperation from the private sector

The report appears to confirm evidence about soaring relations between the US security establishment and the tech industry. “Private sector representatives have also expressed privacy concerns about how the information collected will be used” the report states.

“The private sector’s reluctance to share information has been further affected by the distrust of government created by the Edward Snowden leaks.” If the FBI doesn’t increase external partners’ participation and expand private sector outreach to develop an environment that promotes information sharing and collaboration, addressing emerging cyber intrusion threats will become increasingly challenging.

The future of cybersecurity

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center exploring the future of cyber attacks, some 61% of the respondents said that a major attack causing widespread harm would occur by 2025.As Jay Cross, the chief scientist at Internet Time Group, said: “Connectedness begets vulnerability.”

Geoff Livingston, author and president of Tenacity5 Media, responded, “Cyberwar is the battlefield of now. Don’t kid yourself. Battlefields in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria are real, but there is a new battlefield and every day wars are won and lost between individuals, businesses, and countries.” He added that the Pentagon is regularly engaged in “digital spats”.

“We really have no idea how deep this goes, but we are much closer to William Gibson’s vision in the seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer than any of us would like to admit.”

What do you think of the future of cyber security? Share your views in the comments section below.


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