The FBI's premier cybersquad has focused attention on computer-based crime recently, helping prosecutors charge five Chinese army intelligence officials with stealing trade secrets from major companies and by snaring a Russian-led hacking ring that pilfered US$100 million from bank accounts worldwide.
Because of the Pittsburgh squad's success, the FBI is rewarding the office with more manpower.
"Where there's great work going on, invest in it," FBI Director James Comey said while visiting Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Because of security concerns, the FBI won't say how many agents are in the Pittsburgh cyberoffice or specify how many agents will be added. However, the FBI's overall 2014 budget includes 152 new cybercrime positions, including 50 new agents and 50 computer scientists, as part of the agency's "Next Generation Cyber" initiative. In the 2015 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, the FBI hopes to maintain about 750 cyberagents across the country out of more than 13,000 overall.
The Pittsburgh cybersquad's growth makes it more likely it will become involved in cases that could redefine the legal concepts of privacy and other civil rights, said Bruce Antkowiak, a former Pittsburgh federal prosecutor.
People using the internet "understand that you are accessing to the world so much of your personal information", Antkowiak said. "But that cannot mean, in a society that holds itself to be free, that we no longer have privacy."
Special-Agent-in-Charge Scott Smith said Pittsburgh's squad had developed "a model approach to investigating and preventing cybercrime" in partnership with US Attorney David Hickton, private tech business and academics.
In Pittsburgh, such networking resulted in Scottish cyberterrorist Adam Stuart Busby being indicted on charges of emailing bomb threats to the University of Pittsburgh in the spring of 2012. Those charges are pending.
Comey acknowledged that tracking emails - and other methods used to thwart cybercrime - makes questions of civil liberties increasingly important. Then again, those issues were as old as the FBI itself, Comey said.