FBI Preaches Dangers Of 'Cybercrime' To The Choir

by Leigh Beadon
Mar. 05, 2012

FBI Director Robert Mueller recently spoke at a cybersecurity conference where he reiterated his belief that so-called cybercrime will soon surpass terrorism as the biggest threat in America. Perhaps this means that the FBI plans to start manufacturing cyber-threats like they do with terrorist plots—or perhaps it means that, as some people have been saying for years, cybercrime is just crime. Of course, in a room full of professionals who stand to make more money if people are scared of online threats, he's not likely to get a lot of argument.

That's not meant to dismiss cybersecurity professionals—obviously they do a lot of important work, and obviously the FBI is going to need their assistance for plenty of things. But to call cybercrime the country's biggest threat is to lump together a whole bunch of unrelated crimes, most of which aren't even new:
"We are losing data, we are losing money, we are losing ideas and we are losing innovation,' Mueller said at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. 'Together we must find a way to stop the bleeding."

The dangers posed by organized cyber-crime, rogue hacktivists and computer breaches backed by foreign governments have become a focus for the FBI.

Counterterrorism is still the agency's top priority, but the agency has retooled to prepare for Internet-based aggressors, Mueller said. Cyber-squads in every FBI field office now monitor for crimes ranging from mortgage and health care fraud to child exploitation and terror recruiting, he said.
Presumably the FBI already has people specializing in mortgage and health care fraud, child exploitation and terror recruiting—so why portion off the "cyber" versions of these crimes into a separate "squad"? To then combine those things with hacktivism and online espionage just makes the category of "cybercrime" utterly meaningless. It is indicative of their struggle (which mirrors that of governments, the entertainment industry and others) to understand a core concept: the internet is not a separate thing. And even if there is a good administrative reason for organizing things in this way, it is highly misleading to call such a diverse array of crimes a single giant threat.

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