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Risk

7/15/2009
10:07 AM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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Will Unemployed IT Workers Turn To Cybercrime?

A weak IT market may create a boom in IT-trained criminals, a report from Cisco suggests.

A weak IT market may create a boom in IT-trained criminals, a report from Cisco suggests.Cisco's midyear security report, summarized here yesterday includes plenty of solid information and insight concerning the variety of threats we and our systems face.

And the report suggests as well that ranking high among those threats is the current sluggish nature of the economy in general and IT employment prospects in particular.

In short, IT staff, current, former and unemployed may have precisely the skills needed to make it in the one IT area that's booming: cybercrime.

I've railed here before about the challenges of keeping your guard up in terms of your IT staff without creating an atmosphere of distrust. This is one of those managerial balancing acts that far more easily railed about than implemented, but it's no less important for that.

Knowing who you trust, and who you can trust with the keys to your business's information -- which almost undoubtedly includes customer and vendor information as well -- is among the largest security challenges any business faces. And it is probably the largest of your security responsibilities.

Certainly when employees -- IT or otherwise -- are terminated for any reason, there are large and immediate security measures to be taken.

And Cisco is absolutely right on target in pointing out that [security]"contractors or other third parties... pose a very serious threat, as they know how to exploit an organization's weaknesses, security policies, and technologies to steal data, intellectual property, or money -- or simply, disrupt operations."

Therein, I think, lies one of the report's largest and most critical warnings. You're aware of the nature and trustworthiness of existing IT staff. You've taken precautions to prevent former employees from coming back to haunt (or worse) your systems.

But, particularly in lean times when considering outsourcing security or other IT functions that involve security access, you have to raise the bar for access, and keep it raised.

Outsider threats are magnified when you invite outsiders into your organization: Thorough, ongoing background and reference checks, performance -- and procedural -- monitoring for any unnecessary, unseemly or out-of-the ordinary access or use of company systems and information are mandatory when using IT contractors.

And that's as true in good times as in tough ones.

The complete Cisco 2009 Midyear Security is here.

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