A report recently released by the United States Department of Justice shows that FBI staffing is problematic for combating cyber threats. Though the Bureau began an official cyber-security program in 2012, and the government released the Next Generation Cyber Initiative a partner to the White Houses’ National Cyber Security Initiative that same year, there simply aren’t enough FBI employees to handle the job and it is all due to lack of funding.
Reportedly, the Department of Justice requested a bump of $86.6 million for the 2014 fiscal year to carry out cyber defense and support the cyber-security initiative. Unfortunately, that funding was never awarded, but that is the least of the problems with the FBI. Through the DOJ investigation, it was found that the FBI failed to hire individuals who met the qualifications for the position, purely based on a plan to keep salaries low. Specifically, this is what was found during the DOJ’s inquiry into the FBI.
First, “the NCIJTF did not have a process to measure the timeliness of information sharing among members.” Second, “recruitment and retention of qualified candidates remain a challenge for the FBI, as private sector entities are often able to offer higher salaries and typically have a less extensive background investigation process.” Third, “the FBI has encountered challenges in attracting external participants to its established Cyber Task Forces.” Fourth, “the FBI did not hire 52 of the 134 computer scientists for which it was authorized.” Finally, “five of the 56 field offices did not have a computer scientist assigned to that office’s Cyber Task Force.”
Why is this all happening? Well, the FBI cannot hire computer scientists because its budget doesn’t allow the agency to hire computer scientists at fair pay rates. According to the Business Insider, the salaries available for the computer science positions within the Bureau are low compared to other public sector agencies and department. This staffing issue has already caused the FBI to fail in securing the U.S. government from cyber threats. The report goes into detail of just how the infrastructure has been penetrated due to low staff levels within the FBI.
“October 2014, the FBI released an alert indicating that it had high confidence that highly skilled Chinese government-affiliated cyber actors were routinely stealing high value information from United States companies and government agencies. Also, according to a December 2014 FBI press release, the FBI initiated an investigation of a cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The FBI investigation concluded that the North Korean government was responsible for the cyber attack. While stating that it has seen a wide variety and increasing volume of cyber intrusions, the FBI indicated that the destructive nature of the Sony Pictures Entertainment attack set it apart because it reflected the intent of a hostile foreign government to inflict significant harm on a United States business and suppress the right of United States citizens to free speech within our own borders and beyond. The FBI’s most recent major initiative to strengthen its cyber capabilities to address attacks such as these is the Next Generation Cyber Initiative.”
With some of the events, like the widely known Sony Entertainment breach, the DOJ sees the FBI’s lack of appropriate computer science staff as a threat the national security.
[Image via NY Post]