FBI plans to double the size of bureau's cybercrime team

FBI plans to double the size of bureau's cybercrime team

By Dennis Blank

Special to GCN

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.'To battle hacker invasions of government systems, the FBI by 2002 plans to double the size of its Computer Analysis Response Team. CART has 150 forensic examiners now.

'The cyberthreat is real and growing,' said Ronald Yearwood Jr., supervisory special agent at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center. He spoke last week at the High-Tech Computer Investigators Association's annual meeting.

In fact, cybercrime is increasing so fast the FBI can't train enough forensic examiners to keep up, FBI field supervisor Dara K. Sewell said. It costs $25,000 to train and equip one new examiner, plus another $5,000 for annual recertification, she said.

Under Presidential Decision Directive 63, the bureau is the lead agency in protecting government systems against cyberterrorism. Through a clearinghouse known as InfraGard, the FBI exchanges confidential reports with the private sector and academia [GCN, June 14, 1999, Page 3].

Yearwood said data shows that the Love Letter virus developed in February by Philippine students now has 29 variants and has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage at NASA, the Navy, the Social Security Administration and large businesses that run commercial sites, such as CNN.com, eBay.com and Yahoo.com.

In another example of cyberterrorism, Yearwood said, hacker Kevin Poulson and other members of a phreaker group broke into a National Crime Information Center system, downloaded calling card numbers and alerted suspects in undercover FBI investigations. Misuse of the remote-dial numbers caused crashes of some systems, with losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the damage, Poulson received only five months' probation.

Yearwood also cited the 1998 Solar Sunrise case in which three teen-age hackers compromised 500 military computers and caused economic damage in the millions of dollars.

Building a defense

Besides a computer forensic laboratory in Washington, the FBI has set up two regional labs in San Diego and Dallas, and probably will establish two more in Boston and Lansing, Mich., Sewell said. More than a dozen national computer task forces are in operation, she said, including local police forces, the FBI, the IRS and the Secret Service.

The state of federal systems security is not pretty, said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. He called for the creation of what he dubbed an infosec czar'someone who would have the ear of top government officials and the power to make decisions. With so many information managers in the government, he said, there is no high-level person clearly in charge.


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