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1/31/2008
05:36 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
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When Criminal Intent Lurks One Cube Away

The ongoing Société Général fraud story is a case study in insider threats. The costs, north of $7 billion for the French bank, are high and likely to go higher. For the rest of us, it leaves an uneasy question: Do we have a rogue in our organization? And if so, what do we do about it?

The ongoing Société Général fraud story is a case study in insider threats. The costs, north of $7 billion for the French bank, are high and likely to go higher. For the rest of us, it leaves an uneasy question: Do we have a rogue in our organization? And if so, what do we do about it?As was posted earlier this week, the fraud doesn't look like it required any "hacking" or significant technical skills to perpetrate. Rather, the accused allegedly used his inside knowledge on internal controls to bypass them and place roughly $73 billion in bogus trades that cost the bank more than $7 billion to unwind.

It's a stark reminder to security professionals what could be at stake if a knowledgeable insider ever turned bad in a fraudulent, criminal, even destructive way.

The Insider Threat Study: Illicit Cyber Activity in the Banking and Finance Sector, published by the U.S. Secret Service and the CERT Coordination Center, holds some interesting findings from its examination of 23 incidents conducted by 26 insiders. Including that, 70% of the time, insiders took advantage of failures in business rule checks and authorization mechanisms. Also, 78% of the time insiders were authorized and active computer users at the time, and a surprising 43% used their own username and passwords to commit their crime.

Those are scary statistics for anyone trying to protect their company's treasure, whether monetary or intellectual property. So how do you go about protecting against the insider threat? One place I'd start would be with background checks, upon hiring.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who commit these types of incidents don't have a record. This would screen some, but not enough. Another area would be strict identity management and access control enforcement, such as terminating orphaned accounts, limiting access rights, and regular and mandatory password changes among employees. Again, this would help, but not eliminate enough.

What about not only enforcing access control, but also monitoring employee's use of systems -- and letting all employees know -- their work actions are being logged. This would be the right thing to do, and would have to act as a deterrent, and even help with any forensic analysis that may be needed.

This would be a good start, but it's clearly not all inclusive.

What steps does your organization take to minimize the insider threat?

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