Leadership Spotlight

Leading By Addressing the Cyber Threat

Stock image of a pair of hands on a computer.

As your agency’s chief law enforcement executive, have you communicated with your network defenders? Do you meet regularly with your agency’s chief information officer (CIO) or senior information technology (IT) administrator? If you answered “no” to either question, you should make adjustments to your schedule.

Your computer network potentially is under attack by “hacktivists,” nation-state actors, and other cyber criminals. As chief law enforcement executive, have you ignored this strategic issue? Do you worry that you do not understand the cyber threat because you lack a computer programming background? Put your fear aside and gain an understanding of the elements of the cyber threat landscape.

For you and your command staff to grasp this strategic issue, you need to address it head-on. What if the identities of your undercover officers or confidential informants became compromised and later posted on a website for all to see? Have you considered that your investigative files could be stolen from your computer network and posted online? Or, worse, what if investigative information and report details were changed (and not in law enforcement’s favor) and placed back on your computer network?

What would happen if your website underwent a denial-of-service (DOS) attack, and your agency had other important functions, such as communications, on the same web server? Your communications could be taken offline due to such a DOS attack, and you could lose your ability to communicate with your patrol officers. These potential scenarios should frighten you; they are possible in your agency and currently are occurring elsewhere.

Why should we address the cyber threat in the law enforcement community? Cyber-related issues affect everything in today’s society. As law enforcement executives, we must integrate these cyber challenges into our strategic thinking and, more important, our strategic planning. We need to incorporate the cyber threat element when we hire law enforcement personnel; train all levels of management, officers, and professional staff; and understand the time commitment and high cost associated with cyber training. Commanders must continue improving the security of their agency’s IT infrastructure, which houses their most sensitive data and is under constant cyber attack. Leaders also must establish a productive working relationship with their network defenders and appreciate their dedicated efforts in maintaining information assurance—confidentiality, integrity, and availability—of law enforcement networks.

So, as the chief law enforcement officer of your agency, are you and your command staff meeting with your CIO or senior IT administrator on a regular basis? The answer, as well as the security of your network infrastructure, is up to you.

Supervisory Special Agent Pedro D. Cordero, a cyber instructor in the Leadership and Communications Unit at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at pedro.cordero@ic.fbi.gov.