The Federal Bureau of Investigation, following the tragic events of 9/11, near-instantaneously switched its main focus from organized crime to terrorism. Now, the FBI is once again in the midst of a change in focus, concentrating a great deal of its efforts on the major national problem of cyber terrorism. But does it have what it takes to combat cyber terrorists?
The FBI already has about 1,000 cyber specialists, who include everyone from analysts and digital forensic examiners to specially trained agents called upon to conduct undercover operations. In fact, there are cyber specialists deployed at all of the agency’s 56 field offices across the nation.
FBI Director James Comey recently spoke to the importance of focusing on cyber terrorism during a congressional committee when he said that they expect cyber threats will soon rival terrorism as the major threat to the United States. He said that cyber-based threats “will equal or even eclipse” the resources the FBI devotes to other types of criminal activity, including terrorism.
The FBI’s Cyber Division
The FBI began an organized hunt for cyber criminals when it launched the Cyber Division in 2002. Since that time, the FBI reports that computer intrusions, which include any break-ins by hackers with the intent on exploiting the vulnerabilities of U.S. based computer networks, has increased an astonishing 84 percent.
A former FBI cyber investigator said that the current problems in cyber terrorism have overtaken both terrorism and counterintelligence efforts by the agency. The special agents of the Cyber Divisions are now focusing on cyber spies seeking to obtain U.S. intellectual property, as well as terrorists seeking to attack the nation’s power grid, water supply and critical infrastructure.
National Cyber Investigative Joint Tax Force
In addition to the FBI Cyber Division, the FBI also oversees the operations of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, which includes nineteen law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies, all of whom work together by sharing information related to current and future cyber-attacks.
Another task force launched just last year, entitled the Next Generation Cyber Initiative, focuses on and the computers and networks of cyber terrorists.
Experts now say that the FBI has achieved a status of being a world-class cyber investigative agency.