The FBI plans to step up its focus on fighting computer crime as it grapples with cyber intrusions at companies such as Google Inc. and Sony Corp.
“We will increasingly put emphasis on addressing cyber threats in all of their variations,” Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said today at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on extending his term.
The FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies are confronting a wave of computer crime that’s highly organized and hard to combat with traditional methods.
Attacks are coming from organized crime groups based in Eastern Europe and Russia, from industrial spies in China and from groups of hackers in the U.S. and elsewhere who seem more interested in publicity than in making a profit from their crimes.
The FBI has failed to make arrests in many of the most high-profile hacking attacks of the past two years.
The FBI will ensure that “the personnel in the bureau have the equipment, the capability, the skill, the experience to address those threats,” Mueller told lawmakers.
A review in April by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that some FBI agents who investigate national security-related computer intrusions lacked needed technical skills. Of 36 agents interviewed, 13 were deficient in at least some of the necessary capabilities, according to the inspector general.
Last week, Google revealed an attempted hack, originating in China, into the Gmail accounts of U.S. government officials, military personnel and journalists. Days before that, military contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. said its network had been penetrated by an unknown intruder.
Cyber thieves stole the account data of 100 million global customers from Sony computer networks in April, the second-largest data breach in U.S. history, according to the Open Security Foundation.
Lawmakers are considering extending Mueller’s term by two years at the request of President Barack Obama.
Mueller, 66, took over as FBI director a week before Sept. 11, 2001, and his 10-year term is scheduled to end in September. Congressional approval is needed to allow him to stay in office.
Nominated by President George W. Bush, he previously served as a U.S. attorney in San Francisco and was an officer in the Marine Corps.