FBI Preaches Dangers Of 'Cybercrime' To The Choir

from the getting-sick-of-the-word-'cyber' dept

FBI Director Robert Mueller recently spoke at a cybersecurity conference where he reiterated his belief that so-called cybercrime will soon surpass terrorism as the biggest threat in America. Perhaps this means that the FBI plans to start manufacturing cyber-threats like they do with terrorist plots—or perhaps it means that, as some people have been saying for years, cybercrime is just crime. Of course, in a room full of professionals who stand to make more money if people are scared of online threats, he’s not likely to get a lot of argument.

That’s not meant to dismiss cybersecurity professionals—obviously they do a lot of important work, and obviously the FBI is going to need their assistance for plenty of things. But to call cybercrime the country’s biggest threat is to lump together a whole bunch of unrelated crimes, most of which aren’t even new:

“We are losing data, we are losing money, we are losing ideas and we are losing innovation,’ Mueller said at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. ‘Together we must find a way to stop the bleeding.”

The dangers posed by organized cyber-crime, rogue hacktivists and computer breaches backed by foreign governments have become a focus for the FBI.

Counterterrorism is still the agency’s top priority, but the agency has retooled to prepare for Internet-based aggressors, Mueller said. Cyber-squads in every FBI field office now monitor for crimes ranging from mortgage and health care fraud to child exploitation and terror recruiting, he said.

Presumably the FBI already has people specializing in mortgage and health care fraud, child exploitation and terror recruiting—so why portion off the “cyber” versions of these crimes into a separate “squad”? To then combine those things with hacktivism and online espionage just makes the category of “cybercrime” utterly meaningless. It is indicative of their struggle (which mirrors that of governments, the entertainment industry and others) to understand a core concept: the internet is not a separate thing. And even if there is a good administrative reason for organizing things in this way, it is highly misleading to call such a diverse array of crimes a single giant threat.

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Comments on “FBI Preaches Dangers Of 'Cybercrime' To The Choir”

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Anonymous Coward says:

FBI Decides To Do Their Job

“Cyber-squads in every FBI field office now monitor for crimes ranging from mortgage” [fraud]

Good to hear. So the FBI will now be prosecuting the bad guys who committed the largest mortgage-related fraud in history, the one that caused the global financial crisis?

“and health care fraud”

Yet more good news. May we expect the FBI to come down hard on the scientific fraud being committed by big drug companies pushing their latest newly-patented drugs? Said drugs being no better than earlier drugs which have now got generic competition.

“to child exploitation”

At last! The FBI will be dealing harshly with pimps who import under-age girls for prostitution. Wasn’t it funny how the girls got punished, yet the pimps got away with it. before. Well, no more.

“and terror recruiting”

This will be the most remarkable change of all. The biggest terror recruiters are US diplomats who attempt to push tyrannical laws on foreign countries. It will be quite remarkable to see the FBI arresting them. The State Department might actually have to start doing its own job, so that they do not get arrested.

Anonymous Coward says:


Mike, your weak argument is favouring evil internet terrorists again. You should stop pushing your evil pirate-terrorist agenda, Mike. Mike, this is… oh, well, whatever, I guess Leigh is just another of your anonymous online alteregos. The first step in fighting a anti-cyber-terrorism-piracy-war is the banning of anonymous commenting.

steve (profile) says:

It's because of how they see geeks

The problem is that people tend to divide the world into people who understand computers and people who don’t. The distinction between a games programmer and a DBA is lost on them.

For that reason, the idea of setting up a department of people like McGee from NCIS, who seems to know everything about everything. This means that when they have a problem with mortgages, the cybercrime dept can swing into action, etc.

The problem is that they have failed to understand that a) McGee is fictional. b) Computers are not separate from normal crime. Everything uses computers now. I think it’s scary that they think it’s acceptable to have investigators who aren’t tech savvy, and to have investigative divisions without expert tech support.

They would be better off having specialist mortgage fraud investigators, some of whom are experts in the computer problems mortgage fraud investigators face dedicated to the area, than expert geeks with only a hazy understanding of the specific problems of mortgage fraud being shared across multiple departments.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

This is kabuki theater

First, the feds have (and have had, for many years) enormous IT security problems. For example, let’s start with the FBI: FBI lost 160 laptops in last 44 months. Does anything think they ONLY lost 160 laptops? Does anyone think that this problem has been solved?

Then let’s move on the federal government as whole: Half of Fortune 500s, US Govt. Still Infected with DNSChanger Trojan which is pretty bad — but only focuses on ONE species of malware. Surely nobody is naive to think that this is the only one infesting federal computer systems.

The GAO routinely issues F grades in IT security to federal agencies, and they’re being generous. Things were so bad at point that a judge ordered the Department of Interior disconnected from the Internet.

Second, the feds’ proposed solutions to any of this are initiatives, checklists, guidelines, procedures, regulations, audits, certifications…none of which have any security value. Oh, and most of them involve huge contracts outsourcing the tasks to the pigs at the trough: companies like StratFor, run by utterly incompetent morons who are quite willing to use Google in return for tens of millions of federal dollars.

As Wired so aptly put it, Cyberwar Is the New Yellowcake: nobody, including Mueller actually cares about cyberwar: what they care about is ending an open Internet. They want control of ISPs and web hosts, they want information feeds from mobile providers and GPS devices, they want spyware embedded in computers, they want…they want everything they can possibly get, and they think that pushing the scare of cyberwar is the way to get it.

So there will be bill after stupid bill, pushed along by the feeble-minded idiots in Congress, and eventually one of them (or maybe more than one of them) will pass, and the end result will be that it will make computing LESS secure…but it will be trumpeted as a triumph, there will be handshakes all around, and then the competition over who can waste the most money will begin in earnest.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Issue 1: There are lobbyists on the hill promoting the idea that their overpriced, private solution is the only way to protect us.

Issue 2: The FBI gets a budget based on headlines, not actual work or success.

Issue 3: Congresscritters actually revel in their ignorance about the internet and computers.

Issue 4: They assume if it has been seen in a TV show or motion picture it has to be based in reality.

What we have is a perfect storm.
A director scared his funding might get cut, which when one examines what they have been doing should be cut (How much are we loosing on each lost GPS tracker?), so he is making a public statement that they need more.
Congresscritters and their corporate sponsors terrified that Anonymous might hack them and offer solid proof to all of the evil that we all like to turn a blind eye to them doing.
We still have a public who somehow, I can’t explain it except with mass brain damage, think that these laws and ideas will only apply to the “bad people” and as “good people” they have nothing to fear. In the face of TSA agents feeling up children and senior citizens they still proclaim this invasion makes them safer. They are complacent in handing over their rights for the illusion of safety, and would rather focus on birth certificates and shutting down the largest abortion provider. (And some how mentally ignore their own “sides” actions in forcing smaller providers out of business by using guns, bombs, and mass murder… to “save” the children).

And this is a talk given at a conference managed by a “security firm” who has managed to get a few headlines lately.

Maybe once they secure themselves, then they might have the right to suggest what is good for everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is another good example of why the entire government needs to be restructured. Laws, technology, everything has evolved except politics. The same old tried-and-corruption-approved concepts have been in place for too long, and it’s time for an overhaul. This isn’t a government for the people by the people, this is a government that gets rich from the people.

Anonymous Coward says:

the best way for the FBI to progress and convince Congress etc that funding is needed:

1)spin complete bull shit
2)spin that complete bullshit to the most gullible/stupid, but self-interested people you can find
3)ensure that certain people/companies will benefit from the complete bullshit you’re spinning
4)make sure that their is some encouragement for you from those that are going to benefit most from that bullshit

Mueller is doing what he does best, so gotta be on a winner!

Anonymous Coward says:

How can we trust the things they say when they continue to be the biggest supporters of their own corruption

As far as im aware there are no measures to focus their efforts on corruption in their system, no laws that are easilly identified to fight the corruption, no laws protecting anyone who has proof of such corruption, no laws aginst interference from those with power who stand to lose something, and no laws for harsh punishments regardles of station, power or influence, to those proven without a doubt to corrupt a system that is meant to serve the people

When measures like those start to take place, then i can start to put faith on a system i fear to be majorly corrupted, that the individual giving the speech is not corrupted

Trust, one i find hard to give our governments!
They’ve let it come to the point that no fancy speech will do now, no PR or PC or Security reason bullshit, they have to backup and now prove everything they say with cold hard facts, that can be easilly taken apart and analyzed to be proven acurate, no estimation no and deflecting such enquiries, issentially ignoring the issue, will just lead us to assume that we are right, that they either do not care or have something to hide, in this case, the truth

Anonymous Coward says:

Does "cyber" still look like a word?

CyberFBI CyberDirector Robert Mueller recently cyberspoke at a cybersecurity cyberconference where he cyberreiterated his cyberbelief that so-called cybercybercrime will soon surpass cyberterrorism as the biggest cyberthreat in CyberAmerica. Perhaps this cybermeans that the CyberFBI plans to start cybermanufacturing cyber-threats like they do with cyberterrorist cyberplots – or perhaps it cybermeans that, as some cyberpeople have been cybersaying for cyberyears, cybercybercrime is just cybercrime. Of course, in a cyberroom full of cyberprofessionals who cyberstand to make more cybermoney if cyberpeople are cyberscared of online cyberthreats, he’s not cyberlikely to get a lot of cyberargument.

That’s not cybermeant to cyberdismiss cybersecurity cyberprofessionals – cyberobviously they do a lot of important cyberwork, and cyberobviously the CyberFBI is going to cyberneed their cyberassistance for plenty of cyberthings. But to cybercall cybercybercrime the cybercountry’s biggest cyberthreat is to cyberlump a whole cyberbunch of unrelated cybercrimes, most of which aren’t even cybernew:

“‘We are losing cyberdata, we are losing cybermoney, we are losing cyberideas and we are losing cyberinnovation,’ Mueller cybersaid at the RSA CyberConference in CyberSan CyberFrancisco. ‘Together we must cyberfind a cyberway to cyberstop the cyberbleeding.'”

The cyberdangers posed by cyberorganized cyber-cybercrime, cyberrogue cyberhacktivists and computer cyberbreaches cyberbacked by foreign cybergovernments have become a cyberfocus for the CyberFBI.

Countercyberterrorism is still the cyberagency’s top cyberpriority, but the cyberagency has recybertooled to cyberprepare for Internet-based cyberaggressors, Mueller said. Cyber-cybersquads in every CyberFBI cyberfield cyberoffice now cybermonitor for cybercrimes ranging from cybermortgage and cyberhealth cybercare cyberfraud to cyberchild cyberexploitation and cyberterror cyberrecruiting, he cybersaid.

Presumably the CyberFBI already has cyberpeople cyberspecializing in cybermortgage and cyberhealth cybercare cyberfraud, cyberchild cyberexploitation and cyberterror cyberrecruiting – so why cyberportion off the “cyber” cyberversions of these cybercrimes into a separate “cybersquad”? To then cybercombine those cyberthings with cyberhacktivism and online cyberespionage just cybermakes the cybercategory of “cybercybercrime” utterly cybermeaningless. It is cyberindicative of their cyberstruggle (which cybermirrors that of cybergovernments, the cyberentertainment cyberindustry and cyberothers) to cyberunderstand a cybercore cyberconcept: the internet is not a cyberseparate cyberthing. And even if there is a good cyberadministrative cyberreason for cyberorganizing things in this cyberway, it is highly cybermisleading to cybercall such a cyberdiverse cyberarray of cybercrimes a single giant cyberthreat.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

FBI Decides To Do Their Job

Good to hear. So the FBI will now be prosecuting the bad guys who committed the largest mortgage-related fraud in history, the one that caused the global financial crisis?

Not only that, but they’ll be figuring out who made $1.2 billion dollars worth of MF Global customer money disappear.

Oh, wait…no, no, no…it’s more important to shut down a hip-hop blog. Yep. Definitely a priority.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

This is kabuki theater

So there will be bill after stupid bill, pushed along by the feeble-minded idiots in Congress, and eventually one of them (or maybe more than one of them) will pass, and the end result will be that it will make computing LESS secure

Couldn’t agree more.

The root cause of most computer security problems are from not understanding how computers work and their limitations. And everyone can make this mistake – an average user, some highly paid exec, or a programmer.

(This opinion brought to you by an Information Security Professional who could probably be making more money if he was inclined to buy in to the fear-mongering.)

Trails (profile) says:

A change in the winds of fear

What this indicates to me is that the feds are changing their theme for fear marketing.

The amorphous concepts of “terrorism” and “cybercrime”, being both orthogonal (one is a motivation and the other is a method) and overlapping (e.g. Al-Qaeda hackers), belies the bull poopy on display.

The statement “cybercrime will soon surpass terrorism as the biggest threat in America” is so riddled with misleading implications it’s stunning people didn’t laugh in his face.

It implies that the threats has not only been quantified somehow (whatever biggest means), but that they have projections! How does one quantify these threats? Is there a scale ranging from “small child with a balloon” up to “Galactus feeling peckish”?

Would love to see more than Dir. of FBI wringing his hands in front of a bunch of panting consultants before I give this even an iota of credence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t the real point that street crime has given way to crime using or enabled by computer? That instead of having to worry about getting robbed walking down the street, your money is stolen in a phishing scam or another computer fraud. I think that its about having more resources patrolling the web than the neighborhood.

Seegras (profile) says:

Losing innovation...

What they mean is “our ideas get copied, our innovation gets copied, without anyone paying for it”.

Apart from those ideas like “censoring the internet” or “propagating intellectual monopolies” of course, which the very same people are happy to export everywhere.

How about going on “inventing” something, you know, “technical” instead? Instead of inventing “policy”, I mean…

Jay (profile) says:

FBI Decides To Do Their Job

So the FBI will now be prosecuting the bad guys who committed the largest mortgage-related fraud in history, the one that caused the global financial crisis?

He he he… Nope. The FBI actually has ignored the ones that did the mortgage backed lending. They have the people dead to rights and yet, they’ve let them walk. I’m not surprised. Guess who gives exorbitant amounts to the police to ensure they don’t get prosecuted.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Isn’t the real point that street crime has given way to crime using or enabled by computer? That instead of having to worry about getting robbed walking down the street, your money is stolen in a phishing scam or another computer fraud. I think that its about having more resources patrolling the web than the neighborhood.

(1) Since when is the FBI policing petty street muggers?

(2) No, those two things are incredibly different

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