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FBI Special Agent Speaks on Cybersecurity at CIRC Opening

At the November 19th launch of Hofstra’s new Cybersecurity Innovation and Research Center, FBI Special Agent and Cybersecurity expert Peter Casson spoke about the growing importance of public and private sector partnerships to fight cybercrime. (see full video here)

Cyber threats are now considered a top priority at the FBI. Through its online complaint platform alone, the FBI receives approximately 900 complaints about cybercrime incidents per day, according to Casson. Acknowledging the federal government’s significant, but limited resources, Casson advocated for a robust, collaborative approach.

“The nucleus of this strategy is going to have to be an army of strong private-sector cybersecurity professionals who are able to adroitly self-defend and respond internally to cyber-incidents against their companies’ networks,” he said.

Intelligence-sharing is critically important to help combat cybercrime, Casson said, noting that there can sometimes be reluctance within the private sector to disclose cyber intrusions.

Cybercrime is not the FBI’s problem, not the NSA’s or the DoD’s problem, or law enforcement’s problem in general. It’s everybody’s problem.

Peter Casson

“We are living in a cybersecurity culture that seems to frown upon reporting and sharing internal incidents,” he said. “There are liabilities and vulnerabilities, reputational and other, that go along with sharing your dirty cyber-laundry. But we need to understand that, on scale, that culture is only helping the enemy.”

In his talk, Special Agent Casson offered compelling evidence of that need to work together, citing several successful investigations and prosecutions made possible by effective cooperation and coordination. Of particular note was a 2014 infiltration of financial giant JP Morgan Chase that was ultimately linked to a Russian hacker-for-hire with deep ties to a circle of cybercriminals.

Widely considered to be the largest data breach in history, the hacker obtained over 80 million customer records and deep access to the bank’s servers over a period of four months.  These intrusions allowed the hacker to manipulate stock prices, amassing millions in the process. Without the willingness of JP Morgan Chase to come forward and work closely with the FBI, the hacker and his associates would have been able to continue illicitly mining other institutions for valuable data.

Lauding the launch of Hofstra’s CIRC, Casson said: “What makes me so impressed with this facility is that, on a microlevel, this war room embodies all of those virtues that will be needed in the fight against cybercrime. It’s great because you get to contextualize all those principles you learn in the classroom and put it to use and marry it to some of the more important attributes you need, like judgement, communication, and team building. A facility like this is really going to allow you to put it all together.”

Ultimately, he observed, “Cybercrime is not the FBI’s problem, not the National Security Agency’s or the Department of Defense’s problem, or law enforcement’s problem in general. It’s everybody’s problem.”