FBI Focuses on Social, Business, and High Tech

Above: I visited the SF Federal building, in rainy December

Yesterday, I had the unique opportunity to visit the FBI in their San Francisco office to learn about the organization in an unclassified briefing.

The old days of G-man combatting pin stripped tommy gun toting gangsters has moved on, today’s investigations thwart terrorist attacks, foreign espionage, and a myriad of cyber attacks both domestic and foreign.

Here’s three things I learned on how technology and business are key to the mission of the FBI:

1) FBI uses many technologies, including Social Networks. I posed questions about how they used technology both in crime fighting and defense, but also for outreach to their own communities. They’re currently using social channels to share the major milestones in investigations and told me they have unsurprisingly direct relationships with Facebook and Twitter. While they were not explicit on the scope of the relationship, I would assume they’ve ability to obtain data in the terms of a specific investigation (mashable has more), however they did disclose they do not have “files” on every single citizen, due to resource limitations. My further tech questions didn’t get a lot of answers, which is appropriate to protect their investigative methods.

2) FBI is actively recruiting experienced business and high tech professionals. The FBI applicant washout rate is high: while 60,000 apply online about a mere 100 make it to final stages to be one of the elite 36,000 FBI members. Many don’t pass the background checks (drugs, excessive debt). They did reflect that they are seeking individuals with high tech backgrounds, multi-lingual capability, advanced degrees, or veterans from other branches, although they gave an example of one successful agent who’s background is being a piano teacher. While a majority of FBI employees tend to be lifetime members, applicants are expected to have real world experience, and the average age of recruitment was early 30s. Applicants are expected to apply under one of Special Agent Entry Programs, two in particular are: Accounting and Computer Science/Information Technology.

3) FBI is reaching out to corporations on topics of cybercrime defense. A great deal of crimes that fall within the FBI’s jurisdiction are white collar, and the FBI is actively working with corporations. The FBI also shared they’re working actively to educate corporations on cyber crime/terrorism, and are conducting outreaches, briefings, and visits to work closely with business. For example, I learned that there are a number of offices in Silicon Valley, including in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Reach out to your local branch to learn more about how a business can get educated.

Thank you to the FBI for granting me time to keep me informed for my research, love to hear from others in the comments on what they see other government orgs (and globally) on their usage of business skills and high technology. For grins, I was booked and put on the lineup in the actual prisoner processing center, along with the obligatory mug shot, which I promptly sent to my mother.

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