• United States



sarah d_scalet
Senior Editor

A Not-So-Secret Service

Jan 04, 20023 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

If you’re a CIO in New York City, the Secret Service’s Bob Weaver wants to hear from you. He doesn’t want your money, and he doesn’t want to learn that you’re in the midst of a security crisis. Weaver, the assistant special agent in charge of the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force, just wants to talk.

“Firemen do this a lot,” says Weaver from his new office in downtown Brooklyn, which has an expansive view of the East River and lower Manhattan, where his old office was among those destroyed on Sept. 11. “They don’t really like to see your house burn down; they don’t like to see your family burn to death. They do a lot of prevention, like telling you to be careful how you hang your lights. We like to think that prevention is well worth the effort, but you’re never quite sure what you’re preventing.”

Not that Weaver doesn’t get involved after security breaches. Since its formation in 1995, the task force has charged 800 individuals with electronic crimes valued at more than $525 million. But the purpose of the task force has as much to do with establishing relationships as it does with prosecuting crimes. At the last quarterly meeting at the Brooklyn Marriott, hundreds of suit-clad members from private companies, public agencies, academia and law enforcement spent as much of their time clustered in small networking groups as they did sitting through formal presentations. “Any friend of Bob [Weaver]’s is a friend of mine,” said the chief information security officer of one major financial firm when contacted after the event.

In the past, CIO has talked a lot about the need to report electronic crimes to the FBI. (See Break Glass, Pull Handle, Call FBI, June 6, 2001.) The Secret Servicewhich is charged with protecting the nation’s financial payment systems in addition to guarding the presidenthas long been in the shadows. But that may be changing. The New York Task Force was recently named in the Patriot Act as a model for preventing, detecting and investigating electronic crimes. Other Secret Service task forces are being formed in Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

That may lead to something of a turf war. In December, when the FBI unveiled an overhaul that includes the creation of a cybercrime unit, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post: “I’m concerned that the bureau is creating an entirely new cybercrime division when we already have two agenciesthe Secret Service and U.S. Customs Serviceswho devote significant resources to these kinds of high-tech crimes.”

But the competition is good for CIOs and security officers. Now more than ever, companies have many law enforcement officials who are eager to help not just after a crime but before. (Coming soon: CIO’s online guide on who to call.) Information executives who work with law enforcement outside of crisis situations will be better equipped to understand what they’ll be givingand gettingif they contact law enforcement after a cybercrime.

In short, it doesn’t matter whether or not you call Bob Weaver. It just matters that you pick up the phone and call someone.