FBI budget calls for doubling of 'Going Dark' funding

The FBI’s fiscal 2017 request includes $69.3 million to address the challenge that end-to-end encryption and Web anonymity pose to law enforcement -- more than double its request from fiscal 2016.

Image copyright to FBI: James Comey.

FBI Director James Comey

The FBI's fiscal 2017 budget request includes $69.3 million to address the challenges that end-to-end encryption and online anonymity pose to law enforcement -- more than double the $31 million spent on those issues in fiscal 2016.  

"The FBI will develop and acquire tools for electronic device analysis, cryptanalytic capability and forensic tools," the budget request states.

FBI Director James Comey has lamented what he sees as the deleterious effects of end-to-end encryption, which can prevent federal agents from reading the communications of suspected criminals and terrorists, even with a warrant. At the same time, cryptologists have warned that any back door for authorities into encrypted communications could have disastrous effects on Internet security.

Last year the Obama administration dropped its quest for legislation to address the "going dark" conundrum, but the dramatic increase in funding sought for fiscal 2017 signals the FBI is intent on attacking the issue.

"Law enforcement faces an increased threat of going dark -- the degradation of law enforcement's ability to lawfully access, collect, and intercept real-time communications and stored data," the request states. "The FY 2017 request includes critical resources to develop and acquire tools to address the challenges going dark poses to law enforcement and national security."

The FBI is also asking for $27 million more in fiscal 2017 to boost its contributions to a push for a common IT architecture known as the Intelligence Community IT Enterprise.

The Justice Department as a whole is requesting $121 million more in fiscal 2017 for such cybersecurity issues as investigating hacks, fighting cybercrime and protecting its networks. The bulk of the funding -- $85.1 million -- will go to expanding the technical capabilities of FBI personnel, increasing the number of cyber investigations and improving "cyber collection and analysis," the cyber request states.

Further, the department is asking for $26.4 million more for the Justice Information Sharing Technology initiative, which funds the department's enterprise IT investments.

Earlier this week, a hacker dumped the personal information of 20,000 FBI employees online, drawing attention to the bureau's IT security practices. The hacker told Motherboard that he used a compromised Justice Department email account to access a Justice portal.

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