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FBI Releases Inaugural Hacking Stats

Sept. 30, 2015, 5:49 PM

For the first time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation included statistics in its annual crime report on the number of arrests made around the country for what it called “criminal computer intrusion” — more commonly known as hacking.

Overall, FBI field agents made 105 arrests in 2014 for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, defined as “wrongfully gaining access to another person’s or institution’s computer software, hardware, or networks without authorized permissions or security clearances.”

“This is a little like pulling weeds in your lawn,” said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and now a professor at Wayne State University Law School. “You pull one and there are a hundred more.”

Still, Henning said it was difficult to judge whether 105 arrests represents a high or low number in the context of hacking. He noted that many of the crimes are likely perpetrated by hackers located overseas, and there simply aren’t enough resources to investigate and arrest those people.

The FBI did not respond to requests seeking comment. It also noted that its statistics do not include arrests made under a different criminal code.

According to a breakdown by region, Los Angeles was a hot spot for cyber crime with 22 arrests made in 2014, followed by New York with 19, San Francisco with 12 and Miami with 10.

Although the number of arrests made in a given area appears to be connected to the population there — for instance, Los Angeles and New York have the first and second highest populations’ respectively — the two numbers do not always match up.

For instance, Dallas and Boston each have populations that exceed 10 million people, but neither FBI field office made any arrests for computer intrusion. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C.'s population is listed as 3.2 million and it had three arrests.

“I suspect this has a lot to do with resource allocation,” said Henning, adding that offices with more arrests may have the technical moxie to investigate a cyber crime or they can afford to dedicate several agents to investigating cyber crime.

In any case, he said that the FBI is still highly dependent on the private sector to identify and help investigate hacking incidents. Indeed, many law firms have launched practice groups in the past decade to help counsel large corporations on cyber security and data privacy issues.

For a complete list of the arrests by city, click here . Beginning in 2016, state, local, and tribal agencies will report these offenses to the UCR Program, as Hacking or Computer Invasion.