Vulnerabilities / Threats
12/8/2011
11:56 AM
50%
50%

How To Spot Malicious Insiders Before Data Theft

Psychologists identify warning signs that could tip you off that corporate data may be stolen.

According to a new research study, the majority of insider attacks are conducted by 37-year-old Caucasian men. Now, forget that data point, on which too many organizations fixate, misguiding their internal investigations.

"The problem with that is that it's just a demographic statistic, not a psychological profile. What if she is a 57-year-old African-American female?" said Harley Stock, a board-certified forensic psychologist who's managing partner of the Incident Management Group, in an interview. That's why, instead of focusing on demographics, he said that examining a suspected inside-attacker's behavior--including previous rule violations--is a far better way to investigate such cases.

Stock's warning is backed by a new, empirical study of existing research into insider attacks that he conducted with Eric Shaw, a clinical psychologist who helps companies and government agencies investigate insider cases, as well as conduct employee and organizational risk assessments. "We've tried to summarize the best available empirical research--not expert opinion," Shaw said in an interview.

Their resulting report, sponsored by Symantec, found that if companies truly want to prevent or trace insider attacks, especially involving intellectual property (IP), then they should be watching for a handful of warning signs--both when they interview employees, as well as during their employment. If those warning signs should arise, then organizations must follow them up, preferably by already having a workplace response team ready to investigate. Such teams are typically composed of human resources and information security representatives, attorneys or legal representatives from HR, as well as a forensic psychologist.

[ Torrent of attacks has made it a busy year for cybercrime investigators. Check out the 8 Most Notorious Cybercrime Busts Of 2011. ]

Warning signs will vary, but often involve employees with a grudge who are about to change jobs. "Termination, resignation, any exit planning, or rumors [of that] are grounds for an IP insider risk assessment, because it's such a strong finding that people take this stuff when they leave, even with IP agreements," Shaw said.

Watching for suspicious behavior, of course, won't help spot or prevent all inside attacks. But Shaw and Stock's own experience, as well as reviews of research into past insider attacks, has found that organizations often failed to heed obvious warnings signs--not just job changes, but also people displaying escalating levels of rule-breaking or misbehavior, signs of extreme stress, or employees with a grudge who were preparing to change jobs.

Take the case of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, who's accused of the largest breach of government documents in history. Before that alleged leak, however, Manning had exhibited numerous signs that should have led to his being denied access to top-secret information. "Manning was getting into physical fights, violating the dress code, he was clearly on people's radar, and psychologists had said, 'Don't deploy this guy.' And he was deployed anyway," said Stock.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8802
Published: 2015-01-23
The Pie Register plugin before 2.0.14 for WordPress does not properly restrict access to certain functions in pie-register.php, which allows remote attackers to (1) add a user by uploading a crafted CSV file or (2) activate a user account via a verifyit action.

CVE-2014-9623
Published: 2015-01-23
OpenStack Glance 2014.2.x through 2014.2.1, 2014.1.3, and earlier allows remote authenticated users to bypass the storage quote and cause a denial of service (disk consumption) by deleting an image in the saving state.

CVE-2014-9638
Published: 2015-01-23
oggenc in vorbis-tools 1.4.0 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (divide-by-zero error and crash) via a WAV file with the number of channels set to zero.

CVE-2014-9639
Published: 2015-01-23
Integer overflow in oggenc in vorbis-tools 1.4.0 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted number of channels in a WAV file, which triggers an out-of-bounds memory access.

CVE-2014-9640
Published: 2015-01-23
oggenc/oggenc.c in vorbis-tools 1.4.0 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (out-of-bounds read) via a crafted raw file.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
If you’re a security professional, you’ve probably been asked many questions about the December attack on Sony. On Jan. 21 at 1pm eastern, you can join a special, one-hour Dark Reading Radio discussion devoted to the Sony hack and the issues that may arise from it.