FBI urges Congress to provide more cybersecurity funding

Federal law enforcement's ability to locate and prosecute cybercriminals will be quickly overwhelmed if Congress does not approve funding outlined in the fiscal 2001 budget for additional personnel, new technologies and private-sector security initiatives, the nation's top law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

At a Senate appropriations hearing following last week's series of denial-of-service attacks on several high-profile e-commerce sites, FBI director Louis Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno stressed that cyberattacks are taking up more of law enforcement's attention and resources.

The Justice Department has asked for an additional $37 million for fiscal 2001. The new money has been earmarked specifically for cybercrime initiatives, focusing on the need for the specialized education, training and personnel needed to investigate and prosecute cybercrime at the federal, state and local levels.

The majority of the money, $11.4 million, would go toward hiring 100 new investigators for the FBI's Computer Analysis and Response Teams. The CART members support cybercrime investigations across the country, and during the recent denial-of-service attacks the agency was forced to pull them from other projects to examine log files and other evidence, Freeh said.

"We found in the last couple of weeks that although we were busy, we were not overwhelmed," Freeh said. But that situation will not continue in the future, he said. The FBI is expecting that at least half of its caseload will need this type of expertise, and that will start to strain resources, he said.

As shown by last week's attacks, law enforcement is very much dependent on the private sector's willingness to share information such as computer log files. Justice has focused on enhancing its relationship with industry, starting with an invitation from Reno at Tuesday's White House cybersummit to meet with private-sector organizations to discuss legal concerns and issues.

Such requests are receiving the support of the private sector, which recognizes the need for law enforcement to take the lead. "EBay has long recognized that the best way to combat cybercrime, whether it's fraud or hacking, is by working cooperatively with law enforcement," said Robert Chesnut, associate general counsel for the online auction site, which was among the companies attacked last week.

"We believe that this latest attack illustrates the challenge faced by law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of cybercrime and the importance of assuring that the Justice Department is adequately funded to meet this challenge," Chesnut said.

Congress is likely to fulfill the Justice Department's requests, but there is still concern about duplication of effort between government agencies and the private sector, said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee.

"I think we'll be able to find the dollars, but I want to make sure they're being spent appropriately," Gregg said. "We will be putting more resources in this area; our concern is coordinating...so we don't end up going down the wrong path."

See the related story, "Justice dedicates millions to fight cybercrime," (FCW, Feb. 7).

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