FBI: Our hacker force inadequate

From "Robert Kemp" <sensuant@hotmail.com>
Date Thu, 07 Oct 1999 21:13:54 EDT

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FBI: Our hacker force inadequate

WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI is teaching agents across the country how to 
investigate threats posed by computer-savvy terrorists and hackers trying to 
break into the nation's most sensitive data networks.
But so far, the bureau has been able to train agents in only a handful of 
its biggest field offices.

That shortfall, disclosed in congressional testimony by the head of the 
FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, comes during a time of 
growing recognition within the federal government that even some of the 
nation's most critical computer networks are inadequately protected.

Michael Vatis, director of the NIPC, told the Senate Judiciary technology 
and terrorism subcommittee Wednesday that the FBI has trained teams of at 
least seven cyber agents each in field offices in Washington, New York, San 
Francisco, Los Angeles and four other cities.

But ''because of resource constraints, the other field offices have only one 
to five agents dedicated to working on ... (computer intrusion) matters,'' 
Vatis told the Senate panel.

''Our bench is thin, very thin,'' Vatis told The Washington Post. ''We have 
put together a good starting lineup. But if we had several major incidents 
at the same time, we would be severely stretched, to put it mildly.''

The FBI's case load for computer hacking and intrusion investigations 
continues to grow dramatically, too. Vatis said the agency has 800 pending 
cases, and the number of those investigations has doubled every year for the 
past two years.

The General Accounting Office released a report earlier this week warning 
that computer systems at the Defense Department, law enforcement agencies 
and private companies are at risk because of poor management and lax 

Experts said it will take more than the federal government to tighten 
security on its networks.

''All our efforts to put the federal government's house in order and to 
serve as a model for industry will be of little service if our government 
information systems are impossible to break into, but the electrical power 
that they operate on is shut down by malicious actions of a foreign 
government,'' said John Tritak, director of the government's Critical 
Infrastructure Assurance Office.

Vatis also publicly acknowledged for the first time that the FBI believes 
hackers suspected of breaking into some of America's most sensitive networks 
earlier this year were based in Russia.

Those attacks, dubbed ''Moonlight Maze'' by investigators, were first 
reported in July by a London newspaper. Citing congressional sources, the 
paper said the attackers may have stolen some of the nation's most sensitive 
military secrets, including weapons guidance systems and naval intelligence 

The intruders have stolen ''unclassified but still-sensitive information 
about essentially defense technical research matters,'' Vatis said. ''About 
the furthest I can go is to say the intrusions appear to originate in 
Russia,'' he told the subcommittee.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not 
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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