The US government shutdown has led to a cascade of scary national security-related consequences, according to a new report, and we need to start being seriously concerned.
None of the cybersecurity concerns have bubbled up to the surface enough to merit prominent national news coverage, but a newly released 72-page report from the FBI Agents Association walks through some of the consequences, and their ramifications could potentially be profound.
Among them, the report quotes an FBI agent in the bureau’s Northeast region lamenting that it has no funds available to pay its confidential human sources.
“In my situation,” this agent is quoted in the report as saying, “I have two sources that support our national security cyber mission that no longer have funding. They are critical sources providing tripwires and intelligence that protect the United States against our foreign adversaries.
“The loss in productivity and pertinent intelligence is immeasurable.”
Investigative reporter Brian Krebs paired that report with insights gleaned from his own contacts, including a federal agent who told him that the shutdown is “crushing” law enforcement’s ability to fight cybercrime.
“The talent drain after this is finally resolved will cost us five years,” said the source, whom Krebs quotes anonymously for a new piece he published on his website KrebsOnSecurity.
“Literally everyone I know who is able to retire or can find work in the private sector is actively looking, and the smart private companies are aware and actively recruiting. As a nation, we are much less safe from a cybersecurity posture than we were a month ago.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Krebs’ source went on to say that his agency “can’t even get agents and analysts the higher clearances needed for sensitive cases because everyone who does the clearance processing is furloughed.”
“Investigators who are eligible to retire or who simply wish to walk away from their job aren’t retiring or quitting now because they can’t even be processed out due to the furlough of the organization’s human resources people,” he continued.
“These are criminal investigations involving national security. It’s also a giant distraction and people aren’t as focused.”
CNN has reported that FBI field offices have started opening food banks to help special agents and staff who are among the some 800,000 federal workers going without pay as a result of the shutdown.
Some federal agents are turning to part-time work to make money on the side, but even that presents problems.
Precarious financial situations that some workers may be facing now can make people more susceptible to foreign influence, being drawn into illegal activity, taking bribes and more.
“The shutdown,” according to Krebs, “may be inadvertently creating new recruiting opportunities for foreign intelligence operatives.”