The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is finally stepping up its game when it comes to hackers. Maybe it was Anonymous that did it or maybe it was statements from the US Secretary of Defense two weeks ago, but either way, the FBI is now hunting hackers 24/7.

You’re not the only one who was under the impression that the FBI was already doing this. Yet only today, the agency announced that it has been working on this new initiative for the past year. Its goal is to “uncover and investigate web-based intrusion attacks and develop a cadre of specially trained computer scientists able to extract hackers’ digital signatures from mountains of malicious code.”

The FBI is forming relationships with the technical leads at financial, business, transportation, and other critical infrastructures, plus it has hired specialists to work at its Cyber Division’s Cyber Watch command. Starting today, investigators in the field can send their findings to the centre, which will be operating 24/7, looking for patterns or similarities in reported cases.

The division’s main focus is now cyber intrusions, working closely with the Bureau’s Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence divisions. More importantly, the FBI-led “National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force” (NCIJTF), as it’s being called, will share information with partner intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and the National Security Agency.

Special Agent Richard McFeely, executive assistant director of the Bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, explains the NCIJTF is interested in “the attribution piece” of a cyber attack. Once they have that data, they can determine an appropriate response:

The attribution piece is: who is conducting the attack or the exploitation and what is their motive. In order to get to that, we’ve got to do all the necessary analysis to determine who is at the other end of the keyboard perpetrating these actions. We are obviously concerned with terrorists using the Internet to conduct these types of attacks. As the lead domestic intelligence agency within the United States, it’s our job to make sure that businesses’ and the nation’s secrets don’t fall into the hands of adversaries.

Ah, so it was the terrorist angle that did it. I guess that’s what it takes for the FBI to work 24/7 to and take hackers seriously.

Image credit: Ivan Freaner