What Is Cyber Intelligence?

Patrick Roland

Cyber intelligence is the tracking, analyzing and countering of digital security threats. This type of intelligence is a blend of physical espionage and defense with modern information technology. Various cyber intelligence efforts help to combat viruses, hackers and terrorists that exist on the Internet with the aim to steal sensitive information. Protecting parties, like a government, from these threats is a major part of this field, but so is aggressively fighting these threats.

Cyber intelligence is often used in times of war.
Cyber intelligence is often used in times of war.

There are many different forms of cyberterrorism that constantly threaten the cyber intelligence field. Identity theft is a common form of cyber crime that sees hackers infiltrating computer systems, ranging from personal computers to governmental networks, in order to retrieve personal data. Viruses are another common attack method that can be covertly installed on computers or entire networks in order to cause them to malfunction. Governmental and business secrets are routinely hunted down by cyber terrorists, using the Internet to uncover restricted information that could be used in negative ways.

Cyber intelligence is used to combat hackers.
Cyber intelligence is used to combat hackers.

One of the biggest duties of the cyber intelligence community is providing security against these digital threats. An intelligence professional will likely have a dual background in espionage and Internet security or information technology. Setting up firewalls, virus scanning programs, and routinely checking for breaches in security are important roles that keep a computer system secure from outside forces.

Analyzing terror threats is another important aspect of cyber intelligence. This aspect of the field is most like traditional intelligence and espionage tactics of information gathering. Using third party sources, either informants or one of of the many independent companies that help identify cyber threats, professionals must gather this data and determine how it threatens what is being protected. Often, creating reports and recommendations for others is more common in this area than electronic work.

A third aspect of cyber intelligence is fighting these threats. Professionals with the proper computer training and armed with intelligence reports from analysts are able to seek out offenders and neutralize them. From teenage hackers to worldwide terrorist organizations, this arm of intelligence is dedicated to tracking down offenders and, often using law enforcement, stopping dangerous schemes. Many times, these intelligence workers will also have the authority to take aggressive action against terrorists by using counter terrorism measures to end a combatant's ability to operate.

Cyber intelligence may be used to track down criminals.
Cyber intelligence may be used to track down criminals.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- There are plenty of laws against Internet based crime, but the problem is the enforcement. How does one state enforce its laws against a cybercriminal attacking across state lines? How does the United States prosecute a cybercriminal living in Europe? How can anyone prosecute a cybercriminal who can pop up anywhere in the world, accomplish his goal of identity theft (or whatever) and then vanish in seconds?

We have plenty of laws. Enforcing them is the problem.

That is exactly why cyber intelligence is such as big deal. The best way to deal with cybercriminals is to deter them as soon as they get going. Prosecuting them after they have already broken the law has proven ineffective at best.


How can we deal with identity theft, hacking, viruses and all those other things that make the Internet less safe? More laws that are actually enforced by cyber intelligence police who know what they are doing.

It is a shame that the governments of this world haven't done enough to fight the rapidly growing threat from cybercriminals.

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