The FBI has announced a directive shift away from counterterrorism and toward fighting the increasing threats from cyber attacks, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The move comes amid an ecosystem of attacks from foreign countries, like Russia and its election meddling and China’s cyber attacks against U.S. businesses.
The Navy also recently reported that it was under siege by Chinese cyber attacks, and FBI Director Christopher Wray said all 56 bureau field offices have open investigations that lead to China.
“It’s very analogous to the shift after 9/11,” said Amy Hess, the new head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s criminal, cyber, response and services branch. “I grew up in the FBI working criminal investigation — I worked violent crimes and gangs and drugs. And then, 9/11 happened. And we all, it felt like, were shifted to work terrorism. And so I think now, you’re seeing the same thing (with cybersecurity).”
An analysis by Third Way, a center-left think tank in Washington, said that less than 1 percent of harmful cyber incidents are the subject of law enforcement action. Investigations usually only focus on much larger crimes, like attacks on countries.
“The future of cyber, that’s the future of the organization. That’s the future of the world,” Hess said. “We’ve got to be thinking about how our adversaries think about cyber — whether it’s a nation-state or just an individual criminal for-profit type of attack. Because that’s the way we are increasingly doing business.”
One of the ways the FBI plans to accomplish this is by improving its recruitment and retention processes and making sure all agents have a baseline of competency when it comes to cybersecurity.
“We recognize that we’re not solely going to hire our way out of this challenge,” said Tonya Ugoretz, who started at the FBI focused on counterterrorism in 2001. “We also have to look at our workforce and attack this at multiple levels.”