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Pittsburgh's FBI Keeping the Nation Safe from Hackers

Today’s news about possible hacking of the CIA director reinforces the increasing concern for the United States.  Guest host, and Tribune Review investigative reporter Andrew Conte, sat down with Pittsburgh FBI agents Chris Geary and Mike Christman to talk about what the agency has been doing to help keep American information safe.

Agent Geary heads one of two cyber security teams stationed in Pittsburgh whose main focus is on hacks coming from China. Geary’s team was successful in indicting five Chinese military officers, who are accused of stealing information from companies in Pittsburgh.

“The spy war isn’t over because the Cold War has ended,” Geary said on the threat of hacking from China. “The spies are even more prolific now than ever.”

Geary described working on hacking cases as long and grueling, calling them “a marathon.” He occasionally finds himself working late into the night due to his targets operating in different time zones and says a lot of information is needed to accuse someone of a cybercrime.

Despite this, Geary finds it very rewarding to finally give over the evidence his team has discovered to the US Attorney’s office. Geary expressed a desire to see those five Chinese officers brought to Pittsburgh in order to stand trial.

Agent Christman, is in charge of cybercrimes in Pittsburgh.  He describes Pittsburgh as a “technology center in the United States,” with many companies focused on technological advances. As such, the city is a major target for hackers hoping to steal trade secrets.

In order to combat this rising threat, Christman hopes to start preparing the next generation of FBI agents now. He leads an initiative designed to interest high school students in a career in cyber security for the FBI.

“We realized we have a strong need for cyber trained FBI agents,” Christman said.

Christman’s eventual goal is to create a cybersecurity model in Pittsburgh that can be sent back to FBI headquarters and copied across the agency. Christman said that Pittsburgh has had unique success in cyber security and it is vital to ask why the city has been successful.

“That is what was exciting about my opportunity in cyber,” Christman said. “It was the opportunity to ask those questions, find the answers to those questions, and figure not only how to build it in Pittsburgh but how to push it back to FBI headquarters and help them build it.”

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