Americans caught up in international cyberespionage campaigns are routinely being left in the dark by the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department’s watchdog said in a report published Monday.
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General said that advisory letters typically sent by the FBI to victims of cybercrime were almost never issued in “national security cyber cases,” echoing a 2017 Associated Press report that found the FBI was routinely failing to warn targets of Russian hackers that their personal emails were under threat.
The inspector general quoted the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance saying that out-of-date guidelines were among the problems that kept American victims of foreign spies from getting timely advice.
In a letter dated Dec. 21, 2018, and published alongside the report, the FBI said it agreed with the need to strengthen its procedures and said it was “imperative that victims of cybercrime are informed of their rights.”
Caring for the Americans caught in foreign hackers’ crosshairs has shot up the agenda since Russian spies intervened in the 2016 election. An AP investigation found that only a handful of the hundreds of Americans targeted by the hackers received any help from the FBI.
Few if any appear to have heard anything since. Even former intelligence workers who have spent months trying to pry information from the government have been left none the wiser.
Authorities have shown “zero interest” in communicating, said Joe Mazzafro, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer whose email was among those targeted by Russian hackers.
“Not even the proverbial ‘thanks for your interest in national defense,'” he said.
A message seeking comment from the Office of the Inspector General was not immediately returned.
The Office of the Inspector General’s report: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2019/a1923.pdf