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Former FBI assistant director weighs in on finding the right cybersecurity balance

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Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 08:25:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cybersecurity remains an urgent area of concern for law enforcement in the digital era.

41 Action News spoke to the former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterintelligence division about what lies ahead.

Frank Figliuzzi has spent most of his career at the FBI, and is now an NBC News national security contributor.

He recently launched his own podcast, with his seventh episode coming to the Kansas City field office, shining a spotlight on a specific division.

"FBI Kansas City took the lead on a regional forensic computer laboratory," Figliuzzi said. "They partner with the local state, county and federal agencies, all under one roof, processing professionally that digital material."

In 2020 alone, the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory had requests from 57 law enforcement agencies and processed more than 368 terabytes of data.

That’s 368,000 gigabytes, enough data for more than 5700 iPhones (64 GB of storage is the smallest available size for the device).

While a lot of this division's work is behind the scenes, they processed cell phone data to help bring multiple child pornography charges against a former Blue Springs swim coach in 2017.

More recently, the Park Hill School District and the city of Independence were targets of ransomware attacks.

"This is the new battlefield," Figliuzzi said. "Cyber is the new kind of warfare and we may be at war right now and not even understand the parameters. With so many devices at our disposal, whether it’s your cell phone or critical infrastructure technology, the question facing the country is how to protect communities and personal privacy when it comes to solving criminal cases centered on digital evidence."

"This balance between civil liberties and security is going to become the forefront as we realize that social media and the big tech platforms are all a part of the threat and have to be part of the solution," Figliuzzi said. "So what I like to say is that securing America and securing our civil liberties are not mutually exclusive. You can do both, but you've got to do it carefully."