* FBI director says increasing focus on cyber attacks
* British authorities arrest 19-year-old suspect
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, June 21 Each week brings word of
another cyber attack on a major U.S. institution, sending law
enforcement scrambling and raising new questions about whether
it has the ability or resources to track down cyber criminals.
The FBI says it is working to bulk up its cyber division as
hackers focus on higher-profile targets, but is at the mercy of
a Congress struggling to cut the massive budget deficit.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, who has made it his mission to
boost computer savviness during his decade-long tenure,
acknowledged there was more work to do when he testified to
Congress recently about extending his term by two years.
"I will tell you that we will increasingly put emphasis on
addressing cyber-threats in all of their variations," Mueller
said earlier this month. "Part of that is making certain that
the personnel in the bureau have the equipment, the capability,
the skill, the experience to address those threats."
Some experts question whether the FBI has the tools or
manpower to apprehend those responsible for attempts like one
earlier this year that sought to infiltrate the International
Monetary Fund's computers, which hold sensitive economic data.
A Justice Department inspector general report in April said
some FBI field agents raised concerns they were not qualified
for cyber cases and were rotated between offices too often,
hobbling their efforts.
The FBI is now reviewing its policy on agent transfers and
reviewing training they receive for such investigations.
"The tools that the FBI has in its toolbox are really
pretty limited," said Stewart Baker, a former top official at
the Homeland Security Department and now a partner at the law
firm of Steptoe & Johnson.
"Many of these attacks are launched from overseas, they use
individual e-mails with specially-packaged malware to get into
the system," he said. "The FBI doesn't have a lot of tools to
actually identify a wrongdoer."
The FBI does not reveal how many hacking cases it has
pending or the budget for its growing cyber division.
Following a joint investigation with the FBI, British
authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of a 19-year-old
man suspected of involvement in the attack on the public
website of the CIA.
FINDING MORE RESOURCES TOUGH
A senior official in the FBI's cyber division said his team
has recently received more backing from Congress. Now, about 60
percent of cases focus on national security and criminal
intrusions, up from 50 percent about two years ago. Most of the
remainder deal with child pornography.
"As we've received enhancements to personnel and
non-personnel resources, we've specifically trained them in the
areas of intrusion," Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant
director of the FBI's cyber division, told Reuters.
A Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday weighed beefing
up cyber laws. But the critical issue of finding more money
could be difficult as Obama and Congress are under intense
pressure to cut the budget deficit.
National security matters tend to get spared the budget ax,
but the chances of a large boost in resources are slim.
Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2012, which starts Oct.
1, includes a request for almost $19 million more for 42 new
positions at the FBI focusing on investigating and protecting
against cyber attacks, including 14 special agents.
Obama also sought money to hire six more attorneys who
would be placed overseas to focus on cyber crime cases, adding
to the 40 or so prosecutors already working on those crimes in
the Justice Department's criminal division.
The FBI has been confronted with both "nuisance" attacks,
like the CIA and Senate website cases, and much more serious
intrusions at the IMF, Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Sony
The latter cases are a "higher priority in terms of damage
and victimization, but an overall investigative approach can be
quite successful by looking at the entirety of the problem,"
Chabinsky said, a possible indication of how broadly the FBI is
examining the recent spate of attacks.
Still, he said the number of cyber attacks has not
increased dramatically in the last two years, rather publicity
about them has -- either from the victims or those launching
"But I think they're more visible, and a trend towards
destructiveness is disconcerting," he said. "The level of
capability that's now being used for destructiveness as opposed
to financial gain is different."
Cyber attacks often span multiple countries and servers.
Laws overseas may be different. Determining who was at the
keyboard at the time poses yet more challenges.
Chabinsky said the FBI spends considerable resources on
those cases that take them around the world. Cooperation by
foreign governments in pursuing hackers has increased.
One expert offered praise for the FBI upping its game,
noting it was zeroing in on the more serious cyber attacks. He
said the FBI must also try to infiltrate groups that openly
publicize their hacks, like Anonymous and LulzSec.
(Editing by Warren Strobel)