Information Warfare: August 22, 2003

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For the last several decades, the FBI has been the butt of jokes in Washington because of the agencies decrepit computer equipment and information handling capability. Long regarded as a high-tech operation, the FBI fell far behind as personal computers became the cutting edge of computer technology. The FBI tried to play catch up in the 1980s and 90s, but no one in the senior leadership really understood what the new PC based technology was and what it could do. Then came several embarrassing security lapses (spies within the agency and computer technology that made it easy for spies, but hard for those trying to catch them.) Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has started several ambitious projects. But none of the key ones is installed yet. There will be a system that automatically tracks all use of classified information and automatically alerts supervisors if there is suspicious access to secret information. Also to be installed is encryption for information being transmitted and more scrutiny of people with access to highly sensitive data. The major problem, as it has been for years, is that the FBI is still trying to catch up. There are still a lot of very old, and difficult to use and safeguard, computer systems in use. Many new systems are supposed to be in use by the end of 2003. But until that happens, the FBI is fighting a 21st century Information War with 20th century tools.

 

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