FBI, China Join in Cyber Investigations

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 @ 03:04 PM gHale

Whenever there is some type of elaborate cyber hacking scenario on a U.S.-based network, it seems the first country suspected is China.

The FBI understands that and is hoping by sending over one of their cyber security experts to work alongside China’s experts, it can begin to gather useful intelligence about network intruders in that nation and elsewhere.

The bureau just sent a cyber security expert to China, in an effort to work more cooperatively with Chinese authorities who oversee information networks, said assistant director and head of the FBI’s cyber division Gordon Snow.

This is not a unique experience for the FBI as the organization works with law enforcement and cyber agencies around the world, including in areas such as Estonia, Romania and Colombia. But this is the first time an agent will be part of joint cyber security efforts with China, Snow said.

China has been under political fire for being a suspect in cases of attacks on networks of U.S. government agencies, defense contractors and corporate giants like Google. Unlike other U.S. agencies tasked with cyber-related missions, the FBI does not defend a network. The bureau focuses on the difficult problem of determining the source of the attacks.

“I’m trying to find the person behind the keyboard,” Snow said. “I want to know his plans and intentions.”

The FBI’s National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force has three arms — an information operations group working out of Northern Virginia, an analysis branch in Maryland and a law enforcement operation also in the Washington, D.C. area. The task force works with 18 other organizations across the federal government, including NASA and the State Department.

The FBI tracks down cyber terrorists and hackers, Snow said. The bureau also collects intelligence on extremists who are using the Internet to communicate with, recruit and radicalize like-minded individuals. Or, it may investigate hackers who are increasingly showing themselves to be as sophisticated as state-sponsored organizations and large corporations, Snow said.

Snow offered advice to those in charge of protecting critical networks. He said they must accept three things: They will suffer an attack, they might not know who did it, and they have to be ready to operate without access to critical information.

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