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Cyber Security: Who Handles What When It Comes To Cyber Threats?

With dangerous security breaches aplenty, upholding America’s cybersecurity is a full-time job. But whose job is it exactly? In the United States, the onus falls on not one organization, but many.

When it comes to defending against the world’s cyber villains, there are some important distinctions which help dictate who is responsible for what.

Some classifications and the agencies responsible for them include:

Cyber crime

According to Techopedia–when used generally–the term cybercrime refers to “a crime in which a computer is the object of the crime…or is used as a tool to commit an offense.”

This entails crimes like identity theft, phishing, spamming, or more serious offenses like child pornography and hate crimes.

Who defends against cybercrime?

Cybercrime is handled most frequently by the FBI, whose Cyber Division–according to the FBI’s website–is responsible for handling federal offenses that relate to the Internet, computer systems, and networks.

This can encompass a multitude of crimes, from intellectual property misuse to password trafficking.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), also play more minor roles in handling internet-related crime.

Cyber terrorism

According to the FBI, cyber terrorism is “A criminal act perpetrated by the use of computers and telecommunications capabilities, resulting in violence, destruction and/or disruption of services to create fear by causing confusion and uncertainty within a given population, with the goal of influencing a government or population to conform to a particular political, social, or ideological agenda.”

Who defends against cyber terrorism?

Like many Cyber threats, the FBI is primarily responsible for handling acts of cyber terrorism.

A recent example can be seen in the FBI Cyber Division’s handling of North Korea’s hacks on Sony Entertainment, where FBI officials were responsible for carrying out nearly the entire investigation.

Cyber warfare

While in many respects cyber warfare and cyber terrorism are analogous, one of the main distinctions is both the severity and breadth. In particular, one of the most important distinctions is defined by the perpetrator.

While cyber terrorism is carried out by group hackers intent on affecting a non-government affiliated computer or computer system, cyber warfare–according to Rand–is carried out by a nation with intent to harm a foreign nations integral systems (i.e. military defense, infrastructure, etc…)

Who defends against cyber warfare?

The Department of Homeland Security has organized a special agency in charge of handling such cyber threats called the Office of Cyber Security and Communications (OCSC).

According to their website, this branch is responsible for “protecting our Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.”

Additionally, the U.S. Cyber Command may play a role in scenarios of cyber warfare, since the agency is tasked with supplementing Department of Defense efforts to carry out both defensive and offensive cyber-missions.

The takeaway

In recent history, official organizations like the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) have shown reservations about cyber security policy as it stands–more specifically its decentralization.

With a wide range of organizations responsible for tackling specific cyber security threats–from the Department of Defense, to Homeland Security, and the FBI–the GAO fears that difficulty in coordination may create gaps in U.S. cyber security.

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James Pero