WASHINGTON (Reuters) - FBI agents have had
trouble investigating cyber attacks involving national security
because they lack the needed technical expertise or are often
transferred or diverted to other cases, according to a
government report released Wednesday.
Sensitive U.S. government computer networks are under
regular attack from hackers seeking to steal classified
material or to cripple critical operations. About 19 percent of
the FBI's cyber agents focus on national security cases.
Some cyber agents complained they did not have the proper
experience to investigate such cases, were assigned to other
matters or were rotated between offices too often, according to
a report by the Justice Department's inspector general.
"Because national security intrusion cases are highly
technical and require a specific set of skills, new cyber
agents are often not equipped to assume responsibility of a
national security intrusion investigation," the report said.
Further, field agents do not have enough tactical
analytical support for those cases, "hampering their ability to
connect the dots in an investigation and to determine those
responsible for intrusions," it said.
The FBI in 2007 issued a plan for agents to become experts
for cyber security investigations with 12 core courses and
expected them to complete it along with on-the-job training in
five to seven years. The number of agents who have completed
the coursework was not made public in the report.
The inspector general's office tested 36 cyber agents it
interviewed to see if they had the technical skills for
national security cases and found that 64 percent did.
Five of the 36 field agents interviewed said that they did
not think they were able to effectively investigate national
security intrusions and were not qualified to do so, according
to the inspector general's report.
The FBI told the inspector general that it was looking into
the concerns about transfers and that the cyber division has
also begun realigning its career path program to ensure "field
offices had qualified agents to investigate national security
intrusion matters," the report said.
The inspector general also recommended that the FBI create
regional hubs with cyber agents who can deal with the national
security cases, an idea the agency said it was considering.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Jackie Frank)
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