Law Enforcement, Public Officials Warned of Increased Cyber Attacks

Backlit keyboard is reflected in screen of Apple Macbook Pro notebook computer
Backlit keyboard is reflected in screen of Apple Macbook Pro notebook computer / Reuters

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warned law enforcement officers and public officials Wednesday of increased cyber attack threats.

The center, which is a collaboration between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, issued a warning about increasing cyber attacks involving the hacking of officials’ email accounts and the publishing of their personal information. It also noted that families of law enforcement officers and public officials are also at risk.

"Law enforcement personnel and public officials may be at increased risk of being targeted by hacktivists. Hacking collectives are effective at leveraging open source, publicly available information identifying officers and public officials, their employers or associates, and their families," the warning stated.

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"Officers and public officials should be highly aware of their email account security and their online presence and exposure. For example, posting images wearing uniforms displaying name tags or listing their police department on social media sites can increase an officer’s risk of being targeted or attacked."

In addition to email hacking, the center alerted officers and officials to the threat of "doxing," which involves a hacker compiling an individual's personal information and posting it publicly without permission.

"The personal information gathered from social media and other websites could include home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, and any other information used to target an individual during a cyber attack," the warning said. "The information is then posted on information-sharing websites with details suggesting why the individual should be targeted."

The center directed those vulnerable to the threats to enable privacy settings and additional email security measures, keep social media footprints "at a minimum," and limit personal posts online.

The release comes at a time when the United States is witnessing increasing cyber threats from other nations like China and Russia. Chinese sources are believed to be behind the major cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management that targeted the personal information of more than 20 million people, most of them federal workers.