While the looming threat of a serious cyberattack on the nation is nothing new, the FBI seems to be a little extra jittery as of late, telling U.S. lawmakers to buckle down and get ready. The warning came as FBI Director Robert Mueller presented the FBI's 2013 budget to a House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Mueller warned that there has been an 84-percent increase in the number of opened computer intrusion investigations as of late. Thus the bureau has established cyber squads in each of its 56 field offices, and assigned over 1,000 specially trained staff members to run undercover operations and examining digital evidence. Naturally the FBI expects to spend more tax payer dollars in 2012 as the threat increases.
"To date, terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyber attack, but we cannot underestimate their intent," Mueller said. "They may seek to train their own recruits or hire outsiders, with an eye toward pursuing cyber attacks."
Mueller said that Al-Qaeda recruits and other extremists are not hiding in the shadows of cyber space. Instead, they openly use online chat rooms (IRC) and websites to recruit and radicalize followers to "commit acts of terrorism." Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based branch even publishes an English-language online magazine called "Inspire," whereas Shebab militants linked to Al-Qaeda in Somalia currently use Twitter to "taunt its enemies -- in English -- and encourage terrorist activity."
No, they're definitely not hiding. They're building their cyber army out in plain sight, and it seems to find the FBI a little worrisome. "As our nation's national security and criminal adversaries constantly adapt and evolve, so must the FBI be able to respond with new or revised strategies and operations to counter these threat," he said.
Earlier this week, the FBI landed a huge victory, as the leader of Lulzsec became an FBI informant and turned against his fellow members. U.S. officials thus charged five alleged computer hackers in Britain, Ireland and the United States.