SEI Insights

Insider Threat Blog

Real-World Work Combating Insider Threats

One of the most damaging ways an insider can compromise an organization is by stealing its intellectual property (IP). An organization cannot underestimate the value of its secrets, product plans, and customer lists. In our recent publication, An Analysis of Technical Observations in Insider Theft of Intellectual Property Cases, we took a critical look at the technical aspects of cases in which insiders who stole IP from their organization. Insiders commit these crimes for various reasons such as for the benefit of another entity, to gain a competitive business advantage, to start a competing organization or firm, or for the personal financial gain. By understanding the specific technical methods that insiders use to steal information, organizations can consider gaps in their network implementation and can identify ways to improve controls that protect their IP.

This entry is part of a series of "deep dives" into insider threat. The previous entry focused on IT sabotage.

Hi, this is Chris King. From our research, we realized that malicious insiders do not all fit into a single category. We found that there are individuals who steal or commit fraud for financial gain, others who steal intellectual property because of a sense of entitlement or to obtain a position with a competitor, and some who want to exact revenge against an organization because they are angry. We noticed a pattern in the ways insiders acted and were able to separate them into three main categories of crime: IT sabotage, theft of intellectual property (IP), and fraud. This update focuses on theft of IP.

Physical access to an organization's secure areas, equipment, or materials containing sensitive data may make it easier for a malicious insider to commit a crime. Therefore, an organization's physical security controls are often just as important as its technical security controls. This entry reviews some real case examples of physical security issues as well as some physical security controls.

Hello, this is George Silowash from the Insider Threat Center at CERT. I had the opportunity to attend RSA Conference 2011 with two of my colleagues, Dawn Cappelli and Joji Montelibano. Insider threat was a popular topic at the conference this year--vendors discussed it in sales pitches, and security practitioner presentations focused on the problem. In addition to being speakers at the conference, staff members from the Insider Threat Center were there to gather ideas of what is being done in industry to address insider threats. This entry describes some of the strategies that organizations are using.

Developers often have full access to the source code of critical systems to do their job. This same access can also be used to insert logic bombs, sabotage the system, or siphon money from an organization. We have seen numerous cases of developers and system administrators exploiting parts of the software development lifecycle to commit their crimes. In this entry, we examine some recent cases involving developers who became malicious insiders.

This is the second of two blog entries that explore questions we were asked during a recent meeting with leaders from the U.S. financial services sector. In this entry, we focus on what role malicious insiders typically hold in an organization: a non-technical position, a technical position, or both. "Non-technical" includes positions such as management, sales, and auditors. "Technical" includes positions such as system or database administrators, programmers, and helpdesk employees. "Both" includes overlapping jobs such as IT managers.

We recently met with leaders from the U.S. financial services sector, and they asked a number of questions about recent trends in insider threat activities. We are often asked these types of questions, and we can answer many of them right away. Others require more extensive data mining in our case database. In this entry, we address the following question:

Between current employees, former employees, and contractors,
is one group most likely to commit these crimes?

The answer to this question has some important implications, and not just for these particular meeting attendees. If, across all types of incidents and all sectors, the vast majority of incidents are caused by current, full-time employees, organizations may focus on that group to address the vulnerability. If, on the other hand, there are a large number of part-time contractors or former employees, there may be different controls that an organization should consider using.