The New York Police Department is teaming up with federal authorities to create a new anti-terrorism task force, but it isn’t Al-Qaeda they’re after. A new division announced on Thursday will instead aim to take down computer hackers.
Creation of the newly formed Cyber Task Force was confirmed this week in a statement released early Thursday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose agents will now work with NYPD officers and members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, to monitor malicious online activity throughout the region.
Just as the FBI has teamed up with local authorities in the past to take on criminal activity, the new task force will strive to create the same cooperative relationship that has worked to disrupt alleged terrorist attacks in the Big Apple already.
“The task force model that has been successfully employed in response to bank robbery and terrorism cases is now being applied to the cyber realm,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in Thursday’s statement. “The FBI continues to develop positive working relationships with our fellow law enforcement officers in our joint efforts to tackle criminal activity, and we look forward to working with our partners at the NYPD and MTA to combat cyber crime.”
“Cyber crime knows no geographical boundaries and expands the exposure to victims literally throughout the world. This task force extends the reach of law enforcement to help identify, pursue, and prosecute those who commit cybercrime wherever they may be,” added NYPD Police Commissioner William J Bratton.
According to Bratton, the new alliance will allow for collaboration between not just the MTA, NYPD and FBI, but will “help combat [cyber] threat by using modern day technology” as well as assistance from unspecified “international agencies.” Last year, the FBI acknowledged that it had invited its Five Eyes partners to participate in its cyber task forces, and as of 12 months ago had already embedded Australian agents within the ranks of the bureau to do as much.
In Thursday’s statement, the FBI’s New York City office stated that the newest task force is one of 45 that has been established by the bureau across the country as part the Next Generation Cyber Initiative it launched in 2012 to shift law enforcement focus towards “intrusions into computers and networks — as opposed to crimes committed with a computer as a modality,” according to remarks made at the time by Richard A. McFeely, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.
“Our adversaries in the cyber realm include spies from nation-states who seek our secrets and intellectual property; organized criminals who want to steal our identities and money; terrorists who aspire to attack our power grid, water supply, or other infrastructure; and hacktivist groups who are trying to make a political or social statement,” McFeely told the Senate Appropriations Committee last June.
At the time, McFeely said the FBI was escalating its response to cyber crime in the same way that national security was adjusted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Now following numerous indictments and convictions against supposed hackers in the Empire State and across the country, New York will become one of the latest metropolitan cities to get its own task force.
Ahead of McFeely’s remarks last June, the FBI requested $86 million from Congress to fund its Next Generation Cyber Initiative to “help promote a whole of government approach to cybersecurity, as well as address critical gaps in the FBI’s current ability to investigate computer intrusions and identify, mitigate and disrupt cyber threat actors."
“The requested funding will support the Next Generation Cyber Initiative and will increase cyber investigation capabilities and victim identification by adding 50 special agents and 50 computer scientists; improve cyber collection and analysis; and extend centralized analytical capabilities to the field by deploying cyber workstations to serve as portals for communication intrusion-related data bureau-wide,” the bureau said in requesting those funds.