FBI close to IDing Anthem hacker

The FBI is close to naming the cyberattacker behind the Anthem data breach. Whether it tells the public, though, remains to be seen.

“We’re close already,” said Robert Anderson, who leads the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, during a Tuesday roundtable with reporters. “But we’re not going to say it until we’re absolutely sure.”

China is widely suspected in the early February cyberattack on the nation’s second-largest health insurer, which exposed up to 80 million individuals' information, including Social Security numbers.

Anderson wouldn’t tip his hand, however.

“I don’t know if it’s China or not, by the way,” he said.

The FBI wouldn’t commit to naming the perpetrator once it thinks it knows for sure. But it did say the agency will start naming nation states and specific hackers more often in these high-profile cases.

When the FBI blamed the massive Sony Pictures Entertainment hack on North Korea, it was a largely unprecedented move.

“I will tell you the Sony case is not going to be a one-off,” said Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI's cyber division. “You’re going to see us start to do this.”

Not only is the FBI getting better at naming the digital assailants with confidence, he said, the bureau has seen a deterrent effect.

“We see clear reflections that by doing that it causes some impact to actors around the world, Demarest said. “So there is some impact.”

— Updated 4:37 p.m.