FBI chief wants stronger partnerships

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- In the movie “High Noon,” Gary Cooper must outshoot a gang of villains without the help of the townspeople he must save. Thankfully, the FBI doesn’t have the same problem with fighting cybercriminals, the bureau’s director said yesterday.

“We are not facing these outlaws on our own,” said Robert Mueller, FBI director, at the RSA Conference 2006 here. “No person, no agency, no company, indeed no country can prevent crime on its own.”

The FBI already has many partnerships with the private sector, notably its InfraGuard program, Mueller said. The bureau is looking for the private sector to form stronger partnerships with law enforcement and better educate the public about cybersecurity risk mitigation, he said.

Success in fighting digital outlaws depends on strong, open collaborations among federal, state and local law enforcement, the private sector and academia, Mueller said.

Cyberspace is the like the Wild West, an “open, largely unprotected frontier with seemingly limitless opportunity,” Mueller said. At the same time, “IT has become a force multiplier for criminals,” he said.

Another challenge is that the clear division of responsibility and jurisdiction among federal, state and local law enforcement is “rendered obsolete by the fluid and far-reaching nature of cyberthreats,” Mueller said.

The FBI understands that companies often don’t report cyberattacks because they want to protect their privacy and competitive advantage and avoid bad press, Mueller said. But “maintaining a code of silence will not benefit you or your company in the long run,” he said.

The FBI won’t release proprietary or confidential information when companies reveal they have been attacked, Mueller said. “We don’t want you to feel victimized a second time by our investigations,” he said.

The FBI is refining and expanding its investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes. It is also identifying more of the pre-eminent cybercriminals and their ways of operating, Mueller said.

Meanwhile, companies must make every effort to secure their own systems as much as possible, Mueller said.

The FBI created a cybersecurity division at its headquarters in 2002 to address cyberthreats in a coordinated and cohesive manner, Mueller said. The bureau has established cybercrime squads at its headquarters and all 56 field offices.

The agency has 93 computer crime task forces nationwide, and special teams that can go anywhere in the country on short notice, Mueller said.

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