From the FBI
Cyber Security --
Focusing on Hackers and Intrusions
Early last year, hackers were discovered embedding malicious software in two million computers, opening a virtual door for criminals to rifle through users' valuable personal and financial information. Last fall, an overseas crime ring was shut down after infecting four million computers, including half a million in the U.S. In recent months, some of the biggest companies and organizations in the U.S. have been working overtime to fend off continuous intrusion attacks aimed at their networks.
The scope and enormity of the threat—not just to private industry but also to the country's heavily networked critical infrastructure—was spelled out last month in Director Robert S. Mueller's testimony to a Senate homeland security panel: “Computer intrusions and network attacks are the greatest cyber threat to our national security.”
To that end, the FBI over the past year has put in place an initiative to uncover and investigate web-based intrusion attacks and develop a cadre of specially trained computer scientists able to extract hackers' digital signatures from mountains of malicious code. Agents are cultivating cyber-oriented relationships with the technical leads at financial, business, transportation, and other critical infrastructures on their beats.
Today, investigators in the field can send their findings to specialists in the FBI Cyber Division's Cyber Watch command at Headquarters, who can look for patterns or similarities in cases. The 24/7 post also shares the information with partner intelligence and law enforcement agencies—like the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the National Security Agency — on the FBI-led National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force.
A key aim of the Next Generation Cyber Initiative has been to expand our ability to quickly define “the attribution piece” of a cyber attack to help determine an appropriate response , said Richard McFeely, executive assistant director of the Bureau's Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “The attribution piece is: who is conducting the attack or the exploitation and what is their motive,” McFeely explained. “In order to get to that, we've got to do all the necessary analysis to determine who is at the other end of the keyboard perpetrating these actions.”
The Cyber Division's main focus now is on cyber intrusions, working closely with the Bureau's Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Divisions.
“We are obviously concerned with terrorists using the Internet to conduct these types of attacks,” McFeely said. “As the lead domestic intelligence agency within the United States, it's our job to make sure that businesses' and the nation's secrets don't fall into the hands of adversaries.”
In the Coreflood case in early 2011 , hackers enlisted a botnet—a network of infected computers—to do their dirty work. McFeely urged everyone connected to the Internet to be vigilant against computer viruses and malicious code, lest they become victims or unwitting pawns in a hacker or web-savvy terrorist's malevolent scheme.
“It's important that everybody understands that if you have a computer that is outward-facing—that it's connected to the web—that your computer is at some point going to be under attack,” he said. “You need to be aware of the threat and you need to take it seriously.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
Inspiring the Next Generation of Cyber Professionals
by Janet Napitano
Yesterday, I attended the Women in International Security conference, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss one of the most urgent and important issues facing our nation—cybersecurity. In particular, I spoke about how DHS is building a cyber-workforce comprised of highly qualified, skilled, and innovative employees who reflect the diversity of our nation, and will enable us to meet our mission today, and in the future.
At DHS, we're working to develop the next generation of leaders in cybersecurity while fostering an environment for talented staff to grow in this field. We are building strong cybersecurity career paths within the Department, and in partnership with other government agencies. We are also creating training and development opportunities to retain our most talented employees and ensure their professional development. In collaboration with the National Security Agency, we are strengthening the nation's educational infrastructure by supporting Centers of Academic Excellence across the country.
In addition, we are extending the scope of cyber education beyond the federal workplace through the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, involving students from kindergarten through post-graduate school. And we sponsor the U.S. Cyber Challenge, a program that works with academia and the private sector to identify and develop the best and brightest cyber talent to meet our nation's growing and changing security needs.
We also just launched a new recruitment initiative for exceptional recent college graduates called “The Secretary's Honors Program.”. Its goal is to recruit, retain, and develop exceptionally talented entry-level people to support the Department's missions, including cyber. We also have begun implementing recommendations proposed by the Department's Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on CyberSkills, in conjunction with public-private partners, to develop a more agile cyber workforce across the federal government. Their recommendations are aimed at improving the Department's ability to build a world-class cybersecurity team and allow us to tap into pools of talented Americans like our Veterans, whose operational experience makes them well-suited to cybersecurity work.
Homeland security is a young and growing profession where talented people can truly make an impact in many different ways. To succeed as a Department, and as a nation, we must draw on the skills and talents of the broadest range of Americans – men and women who want to serve the public good and contribute to our mission.
Find out more about a career in cybersecurity here.
Ensuring a Safe Cyberspace Through Research and Development
by Under Secretary for the Science and Technology Directorate Dr. Tara O'Toole
The Internet is a critical and steadily-growing part of local, national and global economies, and has become a key tool in allowing the free flow of information in ways and at volumes that few could have foreseen only a few decades ago. Each of us use the Internet on a daily basis -- checking email, paying bills, shopping, and networking with friends. However, as our dependency on the Internet has increased, so too have the cybersecurity risks.
Efforts to secure cyberspace are perhaps some of the most important and pressing of our time, and were a major topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin, China last month. There, representatives from the government, private sector, and academia discussed the importance of securing cyberspace.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) plays a critical role in supporting the Department's cybersecurity mission. S&T works with a variety of stakeholders to develop and deploy tools, capabilities, and protocols that protect consumers and industry internet users.
In fact, S&T is one of the leaders in unclassified cybersecurity research and development across the federal government. Just last week, we announced grants to 29 academic and research organizations for research and development of solutions to cyber security challenges. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and collaboration between DHS and the private sector is critical to addressing cybersecurity threats.
If you are interested in learning more about the S&T directorate, you can find us here, and you can learn more about the activities of our Cyber Security Division here.