Regional FBI Director Warns N.H. Campaign Workers, Defense Contractors Of Cyber Spying Risks

Sep 19, 2019

New Hampshire-based defense contractors, military personnel and research universities should be on guard against foreign adversaries trying to steal information, according to senior FBI officials.

The state is home to more than 80 defense contractors with security clearance, as well as multiple military installations and university research and development campuses that are at risk, says Joe Bonavolonta, Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, who spoke with NHPR on Thursday.

“All of this means that this is a target rich environment for our adversaries to steal information...which is what they do, and they are doing it at a high rate, and we are devoting a significant amount of resources to try to mitigate that threat.”

Bonavolonta wouldn’t comment on specific investigations, but he said law enforcement is working to increase awareness of the issue.

“The threat is real, and it is pervasive, and it is something we are being much more aggressive in communicating that, and trying to articulate the threat.”

Bonavolonta, who took over the leadership post in January, says his agency is also closely monitoring cyber security threats in the state, including those related to elections. One specific area of concern, he says, are spearfishing attempts against New Hampshire campaign workers, where recipients are enticed to click on bogus links or email attachments.

He says campaign employees are “viable targets for a foreign entity that would want to potentially find their way and intrude within certain computer networks.” 

On the subject of opioids, Bonavolonta says the FBI continues to partner with state and local officials using a “two-pronged approach.” Along with efforts to infiltrate large scale drug traffickers who import drugs including Fentanyl from South America as well as China, he says law enforcement are also working to shut down street-level suppliers. 

But with the demand for opioids showing little sign of significant reduction, the crisis won’t soon be eradicated. 

“Look, this is a pervasive issue, and it is one that is going to be with us for a while. What I can say from our perspective is that we will not let our foot off the gas pedal in trying to mitigate that threat.”