FBI Director Robert Mueller suggested Thursday that cyber-security threats could soon be more of a threat than terrorism.
“Terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority. But in the not too distant future, we anticipate that the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country,” Mueller said in a speech before the RSA Cyber Security Conference.
As a result, Mueller suggested that the FBI “take lessons learned from fighting terrorism and apply them to cyber crime.” Ultimately, he said, FBI agents that specialize “in cyber matters will have the greatest possible skill set.”
What does that mean? “We are creating a structure whereby a cyber agent in San Francisco can work in a virtual environment with an agent in Texas, an analyst in Virginia, and a forensic specialist in New York to solve a computer intrusion that emanated from Eastern Europe,” Mueller said.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI increased the number of its Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which worked together to prevent terrorism. “We are developing a similar model to fight cyber crime–to bolster our capabilities and to build those of state and local law enforcement as well,” Mueller said.
That includes identifying “patterns and players” as well as “links to cases and criminals.”
He called on RSA attendees in the private sector to help in this mission. “Those of you in the private sector must have the means and the motivation to work with us,” Mueller said.
The FBI is currently pushing legislation that would facilitate that type of information-sharing and require companies to report significant cyber breaches to law enforcement and to consumers, he said.
Meanwhile, technology and terrorism still have a link, he said. Mueller pointed to Al Qaeda’s full-color, English language online magazine in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the Twitter account for Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
“Extremists are not merely making use of the Internet for propaganda and recruitment,” Mueller said. “They are also using cyber space to conduct operations.”
The attempted Times Square bombing in 2010 used public cameras for reconnaissance, file-sharing websites to share operational details, remote conferencing software to communicate, proxy servers to hide IP addresses, and YouTube to claim responsibility, he said.