FBI plans for Cyberterrorism & Y2K

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

for educational purposes here's an article detailing some more plans

From http://adforce.imgis.com/?adiframe|2.0|2|20615|1|1|ADFORCE;

Chief G-Man on the Digital Beat FBI's Top Cyber Cop Battles Faceless Specter Sept. 6, 1999

By James Gordon Meek

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (APBNews.com) -- What's scarier, a terrorist or mobster armed with guns and bombs, or one packing a laptop computer?

James Gordon Meek/APBNews.com Michael Vatis in Germany

At the forefront of the government's fight to stop online theft, fraud and cyberterrorism is Michael Vatis, director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, charged with protecting national computer systems from evildoers who can now strike from almost anywhere and escape detection or identification in most cases.

And Vatis's presence at an invitation-only conference here sponsored by the Defense Department's George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies that focused on international organized crime's impact on national security was a strong indication authorities take cyber-crime seriously.

Cases double each year

Illegal intrusions to computer networks occur every day, security experts say, as the world's criminals become more cyber-savvy.

"As organized crime groups see the possibilities of hacking and cracking techniques for illicit gain they will start using them more and more, which is different from a lot of hacking activity we see now, where hackers and crackers do it to gain notoriety or send a political message," Vatis said in an interview with APBNews.com.

For the last several years the FBI has tracked a doubling of illegal intrusion cases annually.

Vatis said the numbers are hard to break down, but that it could be the result of companies and agencies becoming better at detecting intrusions or that more are reporting them. Another possibility, he said, is that the FBI is "getting more skilled at ferreting them out."

Preparing for Y2K

Some analysts have predicted the Year 2000 Millennium Bug could cause glitches after Jan. 1 that might open doors to cyber-thieves. Some have estimated a single online heist could net $1 billion.

But the FBI's point man on cyber-crime said the bureau has no hard evidence that individuals or groups are intending to engage in malicious activity around the date rollover.

"But because of the distinct possibility some people may try to take advantage of Y2K failures and the chaos that might result to try to engage in illegal activity, or other groups that ascribe some importance to he millennium, were going to be ready for it," he said.

That means leave will be canceled for many during the weeks wrapped around New Year's Eve, but he said the NIPC hasn't yet issued orders determining which staffers will be on call or in the NIPC command center during that time.

The FBI's Washington Field Office has announced publicly that it will cancel all Y2K leave for its staffers and special agents. FBI headquarters has issued a notice to all 27,000 employees that leave may be canceled for some.

"We are preparing ourselves at headquarters and at FBI field offices so we're ready for any eventuality, any malicious activity that might occur in cyberspace, or physical violence. That would be dealt with by our terrorism program," Vatis said.

A growing effort

The NIPC staff is made up of FBI personnel and special agents working with specialists from the intelligence community and other law enforcement and civilian agencies. There are 110 instigators, analysts and computer experts working directly with the NIPC in Washington, with an additional 207 special agents focused on cyber-crimes in FBI field offices nationwide. Vatis expects to add an additional 24 to his staff this year.

His budget for fiscal year 1999 was $2.7 million in non-personnel allocations. But the Attorney General's terrorism fund has kicked in an additional $10 million, according to FBI headquarters.

'There are no borders in cyberspace'

Vatis said he hoped his presence at the organized crime summit would raise awareness of technological vulnerabilities with the less technologically advanced nations in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Most often, he said, foreign security officials ask for the FBI's help rather than the other way around, so cooperation and communication is essential.

With computer crimes, Vatis said, speed is of the essence, and traditional mechanisms of international cooperation my be inadequate.

At the organized crime conference that ended Thursday in Germany, many of the international participants expressed strong interest in hammering out transnational legal and jurisdictional agreements for the world law enforcement community.

Germany and Switzerland, for example, have such a mutual convention for dealing with cross-border criminal cases.

"There are no borders in cyberspace, the criminal activity is transnational. Occasionally it may cross national borders," Vatis said. "Nearly every instance of illegal intrusion on the Internet will cross national boundaries. We'll need some form of cooperation from foreign counterparts."

Need to share information

This was certainly a theme during he conference, but even the FBI's Associate General Counsel, M.E. "Spike" Bowman, admitted it's an uphill battle with agencies accustomed to secrecy.

That was the basis of early criticism of the Clinton administration's plan to form the NIPC in the spring of 1998. Some questioned whether an organization as hush-hush as the FBI would be willing to share information about cyber-crime with other government agencies and the high-tech private sector.

But Vatis swats that criticism away.

"A lot of people who don't really know how we operate criticize us," he said. "We have recognized from the beginning that information sharing is a central part of our mission. We need to both gather that information and share it."

Internet Fraud Center planned

One way that will manifest itself will be with the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center, where Netizens who feel they've been cheated by an online scam can file a complaint.

The bureau hasn't officially announced the program or set a date for release, but Assistant Director Thomas Pickard, head of the Criminal Investigation Division, told APBNews.com he anticipated a flood of information on cyber wrongdoing. What the FBI will do with that information has yet to be determined.

An atypical G-man

Vatis doesn't look like a typical geek, or even a typical bureaucrat. He is a young, slim lawyer with television-star looks and dapper suits foreign to off-the-rack government bureaucrats plodding around the federal city, and his job isn't typical either.

On the forefront of technology and cyber-sleuthing, he admits he has the coolest job in Washington, but is still as unknown as the vast majority of hackers and crackers pinging networks worldwide.

Prior to heading up the inter-agency NIPC, The Princeton graduate was an associate deputy attorney general under Janet Reno and counsel at the Defense Department.

An impossible job?

With his appointment to bureau headquarters, Vatis takes on a job that may be under-appreciated by some.

Experts who either analyze computer security or are security contractors for government and private networks have said that detecting the source of illegal penetrations by hackers or saboteurs outside their networks is all but impossible.

Vatis said only law enforcement -- and specifically the FBI -- has the resources to investigate computer prowlers and bring them to trial.

Some also have said the FBI is trying to cultivate paranoia by hyping the cyber-threat. Vatis is equally skeptical of such views.

"You don't have to believe anything the government says. Ask industry if it perceives a real threat, and they'll say uniformly that they perceive it as a big threat," Vatis said. "It's no accident that you can get hacking insurance from Lloyd's of London."

James Gordon Meek is an APBNews.com staff writer based in Washington (james.meek@apbnews.com).

-- jjbeck (jjbeck@recycler.com), September 07, 1999


There is mischief hacking, which accounts for most break-ins. Then there's computer fraud, which is just white-collar crime. Calling this "Cyberterrorism" a bit over the top. "Cyberterrorism" is almost non-existent. It's a euphemism for Y2k disruptions. Just watch them blame rollover problems on "cyberterrorism." It's a way of redirecting our justifiable anger and distrust of the elites who allowed this to happen.


-- Liberty (liberty@theready.now), September 07, 1999.

Prior to heading up the interagency NIPC, The Princeton graduate was an associate deputy attorney general under Janet Reno and counsel at the Defense Department.

Chief G-Man on the Digital Beat

-- There's her name in (the@news.again), September 07, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ