FBI: Partner With Us to Fight Hackers

James A. Dawson Commentary

FBI: Partner With Us to Fight Hackers

Over the past few years, cyberattacks in the United States have increased exponentially. Governmental entities, businesses and citizens are confronted with an alarming number of sophisticated threats every day. As the number and complexity of threats to our businesses and infrastructure continue to evolve, the Little Rock Field Office of the FBI is redoubling its efforts to share critical information, provide insights into emerging cyberthreats and protect our communities from malicious actors.

Cyber risk is business risk, and there is no shortage of recent examples of the wide-ranging economic effects wrought by cyberattacks. While media attention has been significantly focused on ransomware during the past year, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued an annual report demonstrating business email compromise (BEC) schemes cost U.S. businesses over $2 billion last year alone. These substantial losses are absorbed by companies that chalk it up as the cost of doing business in the modern age — but that should never be the case.

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Although cyberthreats often originate from locations elsewhere in the world, victims in Arkansas deserve a rapid, local response. To meet this objective, the FBI has placed strong emphasis on developing its cyber workforce. We have numerous cyber-trained agents throughout Arkansas, and each has significant threat response, counterintelligence, domestic intelligence and computer intrusion expertise. We can put a cyber-trained FBI special agent on any doorstep in this state within three hours. No other organization in the world has our reach, our unique tools or our experience in assisting victims. Our discreet and experienced cyber investigators want to assist you and your company.

In addition to the resources we’ve placed around Arkansas, the FBI has dedicated teams out of Washington, D.C., that provide specialized support to victims of cyber intrusions. Our Cyber Action Team (CAT) is a technical investigative team that rapidly deploys nationally and internationally to assist with complex intrusions and cyber incidents. Our Recovery Asset Team (RAT) acts quickly to help victims recover funds that otherwise would be lost to cybercriminals. In 2021, RAT used the Financial Fraud Kill Chain (FFKC) over 1,700 times and was able to successfully freeze more than $328 million. That money was then rightfully returned to businesses that were victims of cyberfraud.

The FBI’s current cyber strategy focuses on imposing real risk to adversaries through consequences. We accomplish this by using our unique authorities, world-class capabilities and enduring partnerships with both federal and private organizations. One example of how important partnerships are to our mission occurred just last year. State actors of China exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server software to compromise thousands of U.S. computers and install web shells — back doors that allowed them to come and go into victim networks as they pleased.

China tried to prop open these doors, and we slammed them shut. Thanks to information shared with us by a private partner, the FBI executed an innovative court-authorized operation to identify and remove those backdoors from hundreds of vulnerable computers across America. Most important to the private sector, we only did this after publicly releasing information on the compromises and working with Microsoft to directly contact server owners and allow them time to fix the problem on their own. Consistent with our respect for the privacy of businesses, we removed the web shells surgically without exposing the contents of victim computers to the FBI.

Many conclusions may be gathered from this example of partnership between the FBI and private industry, and from the perspective of the FBI the key takeaways are these: if Arkansas businesses and organizations don’t report cyber incidents, we can’t provide the resources to help. We can’t help you recover company assets and data without knowing you’ve lost it. We also can’t warn other businesses that might fall victim to the same attack in the future. Perhaps most importantly, the quicker we receive a report of a cyber incident, the faster we can take action.

What can you do today to protect your business or organization from a cyberattack? Take the proactive step of becoming a partner with FBI Little Rock before you experience a cyber intrusion. We can provide world-class capabilities, international reach and critical information about ongoing vulnerabilities and cyber intrusions. If your company does become the victim of an attack, we will work closely with you to thoroughly investigate the matter while assisting with incident response.

We will do our utmost to introduce accountability to cyber adversaries and criminals. We will leverage our relationships and authorities in bringing consequences to those who harm our communities. We will exhibit courtesy, professionalism and respect as we assist you in mitigating the effects of victimization.

If you are an Arkansas business leader or cyber professional, give FBI Little Rock a call at (501) 221-9100 to discuss what resources we can provide. 

James A. Dawson is the special agent in charge of FBI Little Rock.

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