Policing the Cyber World: Three FBI Agents’ Perspectives on Digital Crime

Cybercrime has been a security threat since the early days of Silicon Valley. This new criminal frontier required law enforcement to adapt with new tools and techniques. Today the FBI’s Cyber Division administers a national program to combat digital threats, but in the early years small, underfunded task forces led the way. The National Law Enforcement Museum’s growing oral history collection includes some unique first-hand perspectives on the development of cyber policing. Follow the development of the FBI’s fight against cybercrime through the experiences of three FBI agents.

Jim Freeman
Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Office
In 1993, Jim Freeman took his new position in San Francisco located near the heart of the US technology boom in Silicon Valley. Freeman understood the threat of cybercrime early on and setup a high tech theft squad in the Palo Alto residence office. Freeman also saw first-hand how the FBI’s outdated equipment affected his team when pursuing the Unabomber. “The FBI operated in those days using a teletype system, which required an FBI agent to…dictate a teletype [to a stenographer]…Then it goes into the teletype room where another individual… retypes it onto a teletype machine… And when it’s received on the other end there’s a whole other laborious process.” You can read the transcript of Freeman’s complete oral history here.

Jana Monroe
Assistant Director of Cyber Division
In the late 1990s, cybercrime grew exponentially and small cyber squads like Freeman’s Palo Alto operation were implemented across the country. In 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed Jana Monroe as the first Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. Monroe recalled, “The FBI had been working cybercrimes for quite a while, but not with a program in place, so it was just various entities within the field office[s]…But the Director, and rightly so, seeing that cyber was certainly a crime of the future…wanted to make a program out of it and have it funded.” Read more about Monroe’s experiences here.

J. Keith Mularski
Special Agent at the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance
Part of the new group of tech-focused agents, Mularski’s introduction to cybercrime began with his transfer to the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “When I came to cyber in 2005, my view of cyber crime was war games and Matthew Broderick sitting in the basement trying to hack into the Pentagon, and it couldn’t be further from the truth…[the criminals] are very structured.” Mularski’s biggest case to-date was the 2008 infiltration and dismantling of DarkMarket, one of the world’s Top 10 virtual black markets for illegal goods and services. Learn here how Mularski became Master Splyntr and more about his experience in the FBI.