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A review of the FBI’s efforts to mitigate national security cyber incidents found that some field agents tasked with investigating these cases lack the technical skills and expertise to effectively do their jobs.
The redacted version of the report, released Wednesday by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, examined the ability of the FBI-led National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force to defend against attacks on U.S. computer networks and efforts by the FBI field offices to investigate these attacks.
Of the 36 agents interviewed in 10 of the FBI’s field offices, 13 said they do not have the technical skills required by the agency’s Cyber Division to investigate national security cases. In addition, 5 of the 36 agents said they didn’t think they were “able or qualified to investigate national security intrusions effectively,” the report said.
Only 18 of the 36 agents had prior experience in computer networking, and some had never heard of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, which serves as the headquarters for the FBI’s cyber intrusions operations.
In nearly half of the 10 offices reviewed, agents said they were assigned to cases that “exceeded their technical abilities.”
A policy that requires field agents to rotate every three years to gain experience often puts inexperienced workers on cases left behind by skilled agents.
FBI agreed with the IG recommendations to address these issues. The agency has written draft information sharing protocols and will review the rotation policy, among other things.