FBI Boston
Kristen Setera
(857) 386-2905
June 5, 2024

Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen's Remarks at the Eighth Annual Boston Conference on Cyber Security

FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen addresses the 2024 Boston Conference on Cyber Security on June 5, 2024.

FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen addresses the 2024 Boston Conference on Cyber Security on June 5, 2024.

Good morning, everyone, and thank you, Kevin [R. Powers], for your continued partnership. It is truly an honor to kick off our eighth annual Boston Conference on Cyber Security—and my first one as special agent in charge of FBI Boston. 

On behalf of my team, I want to thank everyone here at Boston College for their warm hospitality in bringing all of us together to facilitate today’s very important conversation.  

I also want to thank all of you for taking time away from the "daily grind" to join us here this morning. And [FBI Cyber Division] Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran for flying up from FBI Headquarters to deliver today’s keynote on behalf of the deputy director, who had a last minute scheduling conflict. 

The cyber threats we’re all facing warrant a healthy discussion—one that we need to have at all levels and across all industries. In my short time here in Boston, I am really impressed by the work being done here and the strong partnerships that already exist.

The stakes have never been higher. Everyone here is at risk of becoming a victim of a cybercrime or being targeted by a hostile nation-state. Case in point: Four months ago, FBI Boston led an international effort we called Operation Dying Ember, where we ran a court-authorized technical operation to block the Russian GRU from accessing more than a thousand home and small business routers belonging to unwitting victims. These routers were being used to commit and conceal a variety of crimes. In effect, we stopped the GRU’s access to a botnet it was piggybacking on to run cyber operations against countries around the world, including the United States and our allies in Europe.

This is another example of Russian military intelligence weaponizing common devices and technologies for their own malicious purposes. And it’s not just Russia. China is leading the pack in an increasingly crowded field of nation-state actors. Cybercriminals from around the world are exploiting our ever-increasing dependency on computers and technology in our daily lives.

The current cyber landscape is one of interconnected and careless actors who have the tools to paralyze entire school systems, police departments, and private sector companies. This is neither acceptable nor sustainable. These incidents are occurring with increasing regularity and are taking a higher financial toll on victims.

In fact, just last year, Americans reported an unprecedented number of financial losses to our Internet Crime Complaint Center—more than $12.5 billion. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the FBI’s entire budget, and we know for a fact that these crimes are significantly underreported. Victims in our area suffered at least $313 million in losses.

Our adversaries are looking to exploit gaps in our intelligence and information security networks, and FBI Boston’s Cyber Task Force is committed to working with our partners, foreign and domestic, public and private sectors, as well as academia, to close these gaps. When we combine what we know with what you are seeing and reporting to us, we can form a larger threat picture, which is critical to identifying those responsible and holding them accountable. We can also take away the tools these cybercriminals are using to attack us, secure the data that’s been stolen, and prevent hackers from causing further harm.

FBI Boston impacted these tools when we leveraged our international partnerships to dismantle a sophisticated cybercrime malware service known as Warzone RAT. This was a service that criminals bought and utilized to infect the computer systems of victims here in Massachusetts, across the country, and around the world.

Our investigation led to indictments against two individuals, one in Malta and the other in Nigeria, who we believe were involved in selling and supporting Warzone RAT and other malware. The Nigerian has already been convicted and is serving a three-year prison sentence in Nigeria. We also seized several domains to prevent further victimization.

In closing, I look forward to today’s conference and getting the opportunity to catch up with you throughout the day. One of the many benefits in all of us coming together here for the BCCS is the ability to network and collaborate with one another. Partnerships have always been a priority in the teams I have led throughout my career. With the increasing threats posed by cyber actors, I can’t stress enough the importance of partnership. I have several members of my team here who are always willing to assist and collaborate with all of you. 

Now it is my pleasure to hand it over to the dean of BC’s Law School, Odette Lienau.