FBI understaffed to tackle cyber threats, says watchdog

admin   •   July 31, 2015   •   2804

Five men who have been added to the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted list for their roles in domestic and international hacking and fraud crimes are seen in undated FBI handout photos released November 5, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Five men who have been added to the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted list for their roles in domestic and international hacking and fraud crimes are seen in undated FBI handout photos released November 5, 2013.
REUTERS/FBI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

The FBI is struggling to attract computer scientists to its cybersecurity program mainly due to low pay, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice showed, highlighting weaknesses in a flagship initiative to tackle growing cyber threats.

As of January 2015, The Federal Bureau of Investigation had only hired 52 of the 134 computer scientists it was authorized to employ under the Justice Department’s Next Generation Cyber Initiative launched in 2012, the report showed.

Although cyber task forces have been set up at all 56 FBI field offices, five of them did not have a computer scientist assigned to them, the report by the Office of the Inspector General found.

Cyber security threats are among the Justice Department’s top priorities and there has been a slew of damaging cyberattacks against private companies and U.S. government agencies in the last couple of years.

The FBI budgeted $314 million on the program for the 2014 fiscal year, including 1,333 full-time employees, the report by the internal watchdog said.

Lower salaries compared to the private sector made it difficult for the FBI to hire and retain cyber experts, the Office of the Inspector General said in the report.

It also said extensive background check procedures and drug tests excluded many otherwise qualified candidates.

For example, the FBI is unable to hire anyone who is found to have used marijuana in the previous three years or any other illegal drug in the past ten years, it said.

The report follows the disclosure by the U.S. government’s personnel management agency that up to 22.1 million people were affected by a breach of its computer networks that was discovered in April, or almost 7 percent of the U.S. population.

The United States has privately accused China for the cyber attack, but Beijing has denied responsibility.

A previous hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014 was pinned on North Korea by FBI investigators.

The FBI said in a letter to the Office of the Inspector General responding to the report that “the cyber workforce challenge runs throughout the federal government” and that it would continue to develop “aggressive and innovative recruitment and retention strategies”.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Zoom video conferencing app addresses privacy issues amid FBI scrutiny

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 3, 2020

The video conferencing app, Zoom, has announced they are already addressing the privacy and security issues raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to ‘Zoombombing’ reports.

In a statement, Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan said the company acknowledges the reports of users regarding privacy issues, saying these reports would help make the company better for its customers.

“Dedicated journalists and security researchers have also helped to identify pre-existing ones. We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting – about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies,” he said.

The FBI said they received several reports in the United States that there has been an incident of ‘Zoombombing’ or video conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.

Yuan said they already began implementing changes to address their privacy issues. These include training sessions, adding protective features and updating their privacy policy.

“Our chief concern, now and always, is making users happy and ensuring that the safety, privacy, and security of our platform is worthy of the trust you all have put in us,” Yuan said. AAC

FBI arrests 3 members of Phl-based church for fundraising, immigration fraud

Marje Pelayo   •   January 30, 2020

LOS ANGELES, USA — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday (January 29) arrested the top three members of a Philippine-based church for charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

A federal complaint alleged that Guia Cabactulan, 59, the top Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) official in the US; Marissa Duenas, 41; and Amanda Estopare, 48 of the KOJC facilitated the entry of church members to the United States to work as fundraisers for a church-owned charity while only carrying tourist visas.

Federal authorities arrested Cabactulan and Duenas at the KOJC compound in Van Nuys, California, while Estopare was nabbed in Virginia.

The complaint alleged that the three obtained visas for church members in the guise of performing in musical events, but once they arrived in the US, they were forced to surrender their passports and work long hours as “miracle workers” to solicit funds for Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF).

The said ‘miracle workers’ would tell donors that their money would support impoverished children in the Philippines but according to the complaint, the money raised was used to finance the operations of KOJC and the lavish lifestyle of its leaders.

“KOJC and CJF advertise that the solicited money will be used to aid Filipino children; however, little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Anne Wetzel.

Also, the complaint accused the defendants of arranging sham marriages and other illegal mechanisms for members to stay in the US and continue soliciting donations, and then threatened them of facing consequences should they fail to meet quota.

“KOJC workers often slept in cars overnight, parked at truck stops. For those KOJC workers who proved to be good at soliciting money, KOJC administrators, including CABACTULAN, DUENAS, and ESTOPARE, would force them into sham marriages so they could stay in the United States and continue soliciting,” Wetzel said.

According to the FBI, the church’s bank records show that KOJC accounts received approximately $20 million in cash deposits from 2014 through mid-2019.

Following the arrest on Wednesday morning, the FBI executed search warrants at KOJC and CJF offices in Van Nuys, Glendale, and three other locations in Los Angeles, as well as in two locations linked to KOJC in Hawaii.

According to the Federal Law, the charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

READ: Quiboloy follower Felina Salinas likely to face 5 years in jail over cash smuggling

FBI says Ohio shooting suspect explored “violent ideologies”

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

DAYTON, OHIO, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 4, 2019). GUNMAN (CONNOR BETTS) CHASING THE PEOPLE IS BROUGHT DOWN BY GUNFIRE FROM POLICE OFFICERS. COURTESY: REUTERS

The suspected gunman in the Dayton, Ohio, weekend shooting that killed nine people was exploring violent ideologies but it was unclear whether that influenced his actions, an FBI agent said on Tuesday (August 6).

“We have uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” FBI agent Todd Wickerham told reporters.

He said authorities were working to determine whether the attacker was influenced by a particular ideology and whether he was helped by anyone.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday proposed a “red flag” law that would take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others, responding to pressure for him to “do something” after the mass shooting in Dayton. (REUTERS)

(Production: Mana Rabiee)

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