FBI efforts to combat cyber intrusion threats are weakened by poor information sharing with other agencies and a lack of training, according to a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The watchdog interviewed FBI cyber investigation squads at 10 field offices throughout the United States. While the bureau was given passing marks for meeting interim goals for establishing and operating the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF), it is falling short in key areas.
“The [FBI] was not always sharing information about cyber threats among the partner agencies participating in the (NCIJTF),” said the watchdog report, which bears some redactions.
One problem: The FBI has issued a Memorandum of Understanding for inter-agency information sharing that is too restrictive. As well, it hasn’t been signed by all the partners. At times, some task force members have been asked to leave threat focus meetings to protect secrecy, said the report.
“Because the NCIJTF is an interagency task force, we believe it is vital that all of the partner agencies have common understandings about information sharing,” said the inspector general’s report.
Investigators also found problems with training.
Of 36 agents interviewed, nearly two-thirds said they had the know-how to do their jobs. “The remaining 36 percent of these field agents reported that they lacked the networking and counterintelligence expertise to investigate national security intrusion cases.” Five of the agents felt they weren’t qualified at all, the report found.
As well, the inspector general found that the FBI’s policy of rotating agents among offices weakens enforcement and that the field offices don’t have adequate forensic and analytical capabilities “to support national security intrusion investigations.”