These cyber agents are expected to have the skills to “conduct multi-faceted investigations of high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online exploitation and major cyber fraud schemes,” the FBI said. The preferred backgrounds and work experiences for these new agents include computer forensics, computer programming and ethical hacking, according to an FBI job posting.
“Cyber permeates every aspect of what we do, whether it’s counterterrorism, criminal investigations, or traditional cyber attacks, as we’ve seen in the recent past,” said Robert Anderson, Jr., executive assistant director for the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, in a news release. “That’s why these type of people are so important to get into the pipeline and come into our organization.”
An FBI job posting says the responsibilities of these special agents extend beyond technology duties to include numerous law enforcement tasks including participating in arrests, search warrants, raids and other dangerous assignments that “pose the risk of personal bodily harm.”
“Nobody should think that it’s all about making forensic images of computers and sitting behind a desk; that’s not an FBI agent’s job,” said Tim Ryan, a former FBI special agent and supervisor. “We want them to have all these computer skills, but you got to want them to understand coming in: you’re an FBI agent. You’ll carry a gun, be trained to defend yourself, defend others.”
The FBI’s third most important priority is protecting the U.S. from cyber-based attacks, after terrorist attacks and foreign espionage. It is currently investigating the most recent hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the high-profile hacks of Target and Home Depot.
The FBI looks to hire up to 100 cyber agents during the first round of hiring. The hiring process can take up to a year and once a person is hired, he/she spends 19 weeks of training away from their families, in Quantico, Va. When completed, new agents will be assigned to one of 56 field offices located throughout the United States and work a minimum of 50 hours a week and be on call all the time, including holidays and weekends. Plus, the agents must be available for temporary duty assignments anywhere in the world.