FBI director James Comey says terrorist groups are discussing ways to hit Americans with a cyberattack, though he said plotting appeared to be in early stages. “We are picking up signs of increasing interest,” he told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, reports the Wall Street Journal. “It's a small but potentially growing problem.” Comey didn't divulge what sort of cyberattack terrorist groups could be trying to design. U.S. officials have tried to protect things like water-treatment plants, electrical grids, and the banking system from debilitating cyberattacks, but criminal gangs and sophisticated nation-state hackers have proven adept at breaking through networks.
He said a cyberattack against Americans had become a popular strategy for some terrorist groups that had found it difficult to infiltrate or recruit followers in the U.S. The Aspen conference is a yearly gathering of government and industry officials and academics. The FBI director touched on encrypted messaging technology, threats posed by Islamic State and the lack of trust between some communities and members of law enforcement. Comey said the FBI had “hundreds of people we are looking at” as part of active terrorism-related investigations in all 50 states. He said there is one near-universal theme in recent domestic terrorist plots that he said troubles law-enforcement officials, and he appealed for help. “In nearly every case?someone saw something and they didn't tell somebody,” he said, warning that family members or friends of people considering terrorist attacks noticed signs but didn't alert law enforcement or other authorities.