Information Warfare: December 17, 2004

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The FBI is responsible for going after criminals that operate via the Internet. The problem is that, for decades, the FBI had been way behind when it came to computer technology. In the last few years, the FBI has tried to catch up. A major problem the FBI has since encountered is hiring technically competent people. First, the FBI is a pretty straight-laced organization, not the sort of environment that appeals to cutting edge computer techies. This puts off a lot of good people the FBI would like to have. Another problem is money. The FBI employees are paid according to civil service pay scales. This system makes it difficult to hire hot-shot computer experts at market wages. The FBI solution initially was to hire whoever they could get, and then train them. This included a lot of on-the-job training. The problem with this approach was that when these FBI employees got really expert, they noted that they could make a lot more money using their new skills in a non-government job. 

The FBI responded to this by creating working relationships with companies that had the highly paid Internet experts. Not quite the same as hiring expensive consultants, but it gave the FBI access to top notch computer skills when they needed it most. Internet security companies, in particular, liked the working relationship with the FBI, because these outfits tracked a lot of computer crime. In turn, the FBI had access to a lot more detail on computer crime, and people who had better skills and tools for hunting down the cybercrooks. 

This is not the way the FBI normally likes to operate. At first, the FBI tried to create and maintain a database of online crime. But they didnt have the people, or other resources, to handle it. However, they discovered that commercial Internet security firms were already doing this, and found that these commercial databases were good enough. Working this much with commercial firms is new for the FBI. However, with all the rapidly changing computer technology, and Internet crime techniques, this is the only way the feds can cope. The cooperation with commercial firms also makes it easier to get other government agencies to work together. To take on Internet crime, the FBI has to include the Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commission, as well as a number of other federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement organizations in partnerships. It's a whole new way of operating for the FBI.

 


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