According to the FBI’s 2008 budget, the FBI considers cybercrime to be its third-highest priority. Cybercrime is costly, making it a significant problem, and criminals and victims are generally geographically far apart, so it does make sense for the FBI to target cybercrime. However, according to the Washington Posts’s Security Fix blog, “the FBI is on track to have about 3.6 percent of all of its active agents dedicated to its stated No. 3 priority.” Although this figure does not speak for all the cybercrime enforcement in the United States, it does provide an indication of the resources one of our central crime-fighting agencies devotes to a prevalent type of crime.
Cybercrime is a serious and growing problem. As we’ve discussed here before, it is starting to attract organized crime because it is so profitable and carries such low risk. Although the average consumer may lose little out of pocket, some people do lose thousands of dollars to identity thieves, and businesses lose billions to cybercrime, pushing up costs for everyone. Additionally, even consumers who reclaim their identities and stolen money lose valuable time putting their lives back together after being victimized by identity theft and other online crimes; I certainly don’t have 60 hours to lose fixing my credit after someone has stolen my personal information.
Unfortunately, the FBI is probably not devoting adequate resources to cybercrime; as quoted in Security Fix, Paul Kurtz, who worked as a cyber security adviser for the Bush administration, asserts that “we need to dramatically increase the number of agents and analysts supporting the government's overall cyber investigative efforts.” Until we do, he says, “we’re going to remain behind on fighting this problem.” We don’t have to be, though; as citizens we are not powerless. We can take steps to protect ourselves, making it harder for cybercriminals to take advantage of us. We can keep our computers up to date, install firewalls, and be careful from whom we buy online. We can also educate ourselves and our families on being safe online. And we can ask companies we buy from what they are doing to safeguard our data. Cybercrime is preventable, but prevention will take some work on our part. And a little more help from the FBI certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Hat tip to slashdot.