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State, FBI, law enforcement team to fight hackers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23 2013 8:20 p.m. MST

Supervisory intelligence analyst Travis Scott talks about the state's collaboration with FBI and local law enforcement to combat cyberattacks and hackers.

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and its residents are under attack — cyberattack.

According to cybersecurity experts, hackers are constantly trying to break into state networks and personal computers.

To combat the problem, Utah has teamed with the FBI and local authorities to create a program as a line of defense against cybercrime. Analysts and law enforcement will use a state intelligence gathering center to dig into databases, monitor cyberthreats and then try to catch the criminals.

"It's definitely a game. You're not going to win them all," said supervisory intelligence analyst Travis Scott. "But you do your best.

"Here in the future, you're going to find that most crimes are going to have some sort of computer or cyber element to them," he said. "I don't know that we're necessarily ahead of the curve, but we're trying to dive in feet first and see what we can do to combat it. It's very important, because it's only going to grow."

State Public Safety Commissioner Col. Keith Squires also said he is determined to get ahead of hackers.

"We'll be able to solve many more crimes that never got investigated before," he said.

Squires spearheaded the pilot program after a series of attacks on state networks, Utah businesses and personal computers. The attacks come from government entities stealing secrets, scammers trying to fleece money, and so-called "hacktivists" looking to score political points.

Two years ago, Squires says state technology services regularly reported up to 30,000 attacks in a 24-hour period. That number jumped to a half-million a day at the beginning of the year and then skyrocketed to 80 million per day just three months later.

"In the past months, we've seen those amounts of attacks on the state of Utah hit levels of over 300 million in a 24-hour period," he said.

Squires says the attacks spiked as attention intensified on the new National Security Agency cybersecurity data center in Bluffdale. Analysts theorize that the proximity of that facility increased attacks from hackers worldwide who do not distinguish between NSA and state computers.

The key to the types of investigations is the collaboration between law enforcement and computer analysts — strategically and tactically. They work specific cases, with a trained eye on national crime trends.

"They're able to take information, tie it together, find those commonalities and point you in the direction of suspects much quicker and much more efficiently than we've been able to in the past," Squires said.

Victims and local law enforcement need to report hacking crimes at IC3.gov so analysts and law enforcers can work on the case.

"The key to this is having those victims report the information," Squires said.

The Utah Legislature committed $450,000 to get the program going. Other states are watching to see how well it works.

EMAIL: jboal@deseretnews.com

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