FBI reviewing IT security

IT security practices are part of an internal review of the FBI's counterespionage efforts

Senate Judiciary Committee FBI oversight hearing testimony

The FBI's information technology security practices are part of an internal review of the bureau's counterespionage efforts, said former FBI director William Webster, who is leading that review.

Attorney General John Ashcroft specifically requested that the review cover IT security, Webster said during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Webster said the review is looking at:

* The adequacy of the FBI's protection of computer and telecommunications systems.

* The bureau's audit trail capabilities examining the FBI's ability to track who has access to what information.

* The FBI's implementation of automated tripwire detection systems, which are used to notify officials when somebody is looking at information unrelated to their work.

Webster was brought in by FBI Director Louis Freeh, who steps down this week, in the wake of the arrest of Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent who was arrested in February on charges of spying for the Russians for 15 years.

Mark Tanner, the FBI's information resource manager, last month said that the bureau is looking at its computer security policies and practices in conjunction with the Webster study.

There is no indication that Hanssen took advantage of holes in IT security policies or procedures, Tanner said. Instead the review is part of an overall effort to enhance security at the bureau, he said.

Freeh appointed Webster to lead a commission that will make recommendations about what steps the FBI should take to prevent counterespionage incidents.

Beyond the bureau's information system security, Webster said his team is also looking at personnel security, document security and organizational security.

Webster was part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's panel of officials who have investigated FBI problems over the years. The committee has stepped up its oversight of the FBI since the Democrats took over the leadership of the Senate. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Senate has been remiss for failing to monitor the bureau more carefully.

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