The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is struggling to fill jobs in information security, finds an audit recently published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
To complete its report, the DOJ reviewed the FBI’s Next Gen Cyber Initiative, a funding increase platform that the Bureau launched to enhance its capabilities in response to the growing number of data breaches and corporate information security incidents.
According to the audit, the FBI has made some progress in mitigating threats to the United States’ digital security. For example, “cyber task forces” have been set up in all 56 FBI field offices. The FBI also initially budgeted $314 million for the initiative in 2014 alone, which included 1,333 full-time jobs (with 756 agents).
This progress notwithstanding, the FBI has experienced some challenges in meeting the goals outlined under the Next Gen Cyber Initiative, the audit finds.
One of the key barriers to filling its workforce are disadvantages in both background checks and salaries, as compared to jobs in the private sector.
“Another FBI official told us that the FBI loses a significant number of people who may be interested because of the FBI’s extensive background check process and other requirements, such as all employees must be United States citizens and must not have used marijuana in the past 3 years, and cannot have used any other illegal drug in the past 10 years,” the report states. “Another factor may be that private sector entities are able to offer technically trained, cyber professionals higher salaries than the FBI can offer.”
These requirements may have led the FBI to not hire 52 of the 134 computer scientists for which it was authorized, which has led to five of its 56 field offices not having a computer scientist working in-house.
The Bureau has also encountered some resistance in cooperating with the private sector following revelations of widespread government surveillance back in 2011.
“The private sector reluctance to share information has been further affected by the distrust of government following the Edward Snowden leaks about US surveillance programs,” the report said. “Several private sector representatives told us that providing information to the FBI is akin to sending it into a black hole–the information goes in and the entities never hear any more about it.”
Going forward, the DOJ urges the FBI to continue focusing on hiring and recruiting trained professionals to its ranks, increasing external partnership (including state and local law enforcement) participation in its “cyber task forces,” and refining its information sharing protocols with the private sector under the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF).
The NCIJTF recently made headlines when it cooperated with international partners to take down the underground web forum Darkode. A new and improved iteration of the site returned just two weeks after the operation, however.