FBI: Cybersecurity is priority No. 3

Organizational changes announced yesterday by the FBI included honing its focus on combating computer-related crimes.

In a Top 10 list of priorities detailed during a press conference at the FBI's headquarters in Washington, FBI Director Robert Mueller pegged cybercrime prevention as its third most important priority behind battling terrorism and fighting espionage.

At the bottom of the list, Mueller also pledged to upgrade technology used by the FBI in order to help it better perform its duties. Mueller said the FBI's new Counterterrorism Division would work to improve its use of new technology by expanding its use of data mining and computer analysis.

The FBI has undergone several changes in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including moves to improve its technology prowess. The agency created its Cyber Division in December, combining two previous groups that focused on intellectual property and crimes related to computers, the Internet and networks. In April, the FBI named the head of its San Francisco field office, Larry Mefford, the assistant director of the Cyber Division.

Still, the agency has been criticized by watchdog groups about, among other things, methods it uses to gather information. On Tuesday, the Washington-based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) released an FBI document it had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that detailed a technical glitch in the e-mail surveillance system formerly known as Carnivore. EPIC said the glitch may have hampered the FBI's investigations into terrorist activities (see story).

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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