FBI is ‘moving towards’ predictive cybercrime-fighting tools, assistant director says

The FBI’s cybercrime unit is developing predictive policing capabilities.
FBI Headquarters (FBI)

The FBI’s cybercrime unit is developing predictive policing capabilities, Assistant Director Scott Smith said during a panel discussion at the 2017 RSA conference.

“It’s where we are moving, and hope to go when you talk about predicting as opposed to proactive and reactive. Reactive is consistently where we have been, proactive means we’re really trying to get ahead of it. But predictive is where we want to be. And that’s where I know FBI Cyber Division is strongly moving towards as we speak,” Smith said.

Predictive policing is a broad term used to describe law enforcement’s ability to forecast criminal activity. In cyberspace, such technology could feasibly help officers pinpoint a data breach or other illegal internet activity before it happens.

“Predictive policing tries to harness the power of information, geospatial technologies and evidence-based intervention models to reduce crime and improve public safety,” a definition by the National Institute of Justice reads.

Over the last several years, existing predictive policing software products have attracted substantial criticism, however, as civil-rights and social-justice groups claim that the technology can encourage racial profiling and other biases.

Smith was not available to answer followup questions after the panel discussion ended.

“I think we need to look at data differently and for what it really is. It is infrastructure-related, it is the backbone of everything that is going on and taking place in business and global communities. Within healthcare, within transportation, energy, any of the fields you see they all rely upon this backbone of data and information and internet activities … I think we need to look at it differently as a society, as a country, with our laws that frame it to something more current,” Smith said.

Broadly speaking, Smith said that the Bureau is in need of additional resources, tools and new legislation to better deal with cybercrime at a global scale.

“Those tools that I talked about earlier, that’s where private industry can just pay off big time because of the innovation, the advancements they make, and that they make everyday. Where we can apply these tools to new problem sets, I know we can come up with better solutions,” said Smith.

In recent years, the FBI has been known to acquire both offensive and defense cybersecurity products from the private industry.

Chris Bing

Written by Chris Bing

Christopher J. Bing is a cybersecurity reporter for CyberScoop. He has written about security, technology and policy for the American City Business Journals, DC Inno, International Policy Digest and The Daily Caller. Chris became interested in journalism as a result of growing up in Venezuela and watching the country shift from a democracy to a dictatorship between 1991 and 2009. Chris is an alumnus of St. Marys College of Maryland, a small liberal arts school based in Southern Maryland. He's a fan of Premier League football, authentic Laotian food and his dog, Sam.

Latest Podcasts