Friday, March 19, 2010

FBI is way behind 8-ball (and amateurs) with its own information technology: how does this affect their jobs?

The F.B.I. is dragging its feet in its overhaul of its information technology, according to a story by Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times today (March 19), p a12, “F.B.I. faces new setback in computer overhaul”, link here. The article discusses contracts with Lockheed and SIAC.

The FBI had to communicate by courier after 9/11 because it could not handle email attachments, and newer systems still have to work with slower response times and inadequate ability to deal with more controversial parameters of investigation, like ethnicity. This could be a serious problem when it has to “connect the dots” with information at other agencies, particularly when it gets tips from the public, sometimes from private citizens with much more advanced Internet searching skills than government investigators.

There have occurred some disturbing crimes reported in the media in the past few years, and in a few cases information about the victims is available on social networking sites, blogs, tweets, and various other logs. From this story, it appears that the FBI and perhaps various police or sheriff’s departments don’t have the skills or tools to hunt down clues that amateurs do, even though police departments are sometimes very good at setting up Internet stings (as on NBC Dateline). An ABC 20/20 story (the second half) on March 19 about a bizarre Internet love triangle reinforces that perception.

It would seem that computer and Internet forensics ought to be a promising career area for those starting out in IT while finishing college, but law enforcement needs to get its systems in order. The military services seem to have done a much better job, as has the CIA (just look at Jesse Ventura’s latest book).

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