State Dept must study ability of US allies to combat cybercrime: GAO

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on the death of former secretary of state Colin Powell in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC on October 18, 2021. - Powell's family announced that he died from Covid-19 complications. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The State Department should conduct a fresh evaluation of allies’ cybercrime-fighting capabilities as the United States government works to address a rise in digital threats, according to a government watchdog report.

In a study published on Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office said State should conduct a comprehensive assessment to help quantify the benefits of sending federal assistance and taxpayer dollars to assist other countries working to reduce cybercrime.

“In its leading role for foreign assistance, State has not conducted a comprehensive evaluation of how these activities have contributed to overall capacity building,” the GAO report states. 

“Without such evaluations, State cannot ensure that agencies’ individual activities or case-specific accomplishments are contributing to long-term success in improving foreign nations’ ability to more effectively combat cybercrime.”


The need to strengthen global cooperation comes after a two-year period in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has received a record number of cybercrime complaints and the intelligence community has noted an increase in ransomware attacks by transnational criminals.

The GAO report also found that officials at the State Department, the Justice Department (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS) and experts from international entities have identified six mutual challenges in building global capacity to combat cybercrime. 

These included a lack of dedicated resources, difficulties in retaining highly trained staff, and inconsistent definitions of “cybercrime.” The expert panel also identified challenges in working with the U.S. government, including obstacles in obtaining information, lack of collaboration, and lack of dedicated funding streams.

State said it concurred with the final recommendation of the GAO report which asked the Secretary of State Antony Blinken to instruct the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Lisa Johnson, to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of capacity building efforts to counter cybercrime.

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