FBI Director James Comey has written an open letter to the FBI workforce, urging them to be careful about who they email with and to use encryption on all their communications.
The FBI’s cyber operations are targeted at foreign governments and organizations, but Comey said he would also use the threat of foreign governments trying to gain access to the private information of the FBI to gain more leverage over law enforcement.
“If we can’t protect our civil liberties, we will not be able to protect our democracy,” Comey wrote.
Comey said the FBI will have to adopt new security measures if it wants to remain safe from foreign intelligence and other threats.
The FBI is working to strengthen its tools for cyber investigations, including new technology that lets it see what types of emails and documents are being sent and received by targets, Comey wrote, and a new system that can detect the types of files and files attachments being sent to targets.
“Our goal is to make sure that we have an effective and effective cyber defense, which includes strong encryption on the devices that we use,” Comey said.
“This means that we will need to adopt some new methods for doing so.”
The FBI will start requiring emails accounts to have a unique identifier, including an IP address or an unique password, to track the activity of any device that the FBI identifies as a threat, Comey said in his letter.
The agency also is proposing a rule that would require email accounts and devices that use the same email account or device to also have a set of security policies and a set, unique identifier that would allow the FBI and other government agencies to determine if the account is being used for any other purpose.
The move comes after the FBI last week announced a new tool for investigating foreign intelligence efforts to access the private data of American citizens.
Comey said the new tool will enable the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies, to obtain warrants for the private emails and other data of targets, as well as metadata on the targets’ electronic devices, including the email addresses of the users.
“The FBI is not the only law enforcement agency that has used encryption to protect against hacking,” Comey added.
“But the FBI is the first law enforcement entity to adopt such an encryption policy.”
Comey did not specify how the FBI would be able determine if a targeted email account is a foreign intelligence target, but it is a possibility that could potentially help law enforcement officials determine if someone is a spy.
The new tool could also help law enforcements figure out whether a target is an imminent threat to public safety or national security, Comey added, and help the FBI determine if that person is acting on behalf of a foreign government.