Snowden leaks prompt firms to focus cyber security on insider threats

Edward Snowden

At this week’s Def Con hacker gathering in Las Vegas, Tess Schrodinger sounded almost annoyed. “The whole insider-threat phenomenon, they act like it’s this new thing,” the cyber security expert told the crowd. Schrodinger then spent an hour ticking off a long string of insider threats long before Edward Snowden's famous leaks, from Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Britain's House of Lords, to Brian Patrick Regan, an American Air Force sergeant convicted of trying to sell secrets to Saddam Hussein. “Suddenly we have to worry about this,” Schrodinger told the Def Con crowd, even citing Judas to make her case. “If you know your history, insider threat has been an issue before the beginning of time.”

But even if insider threats can be traced back to the biblical era, the recent focus on them has had an impact on the business of cybersecurity. Pre-Snowden, much of the attention was devoted to protecting against cybercriminals and foreign hackers. Now companies are increasingly protecting themselves from their own employees. Cracking down too hard can stifle workplace creativity, but potentially losing millions from a single breach of intellectual property can be even more worrisome.

After private companies witnessed the damage a contractor in Hawaii could inflict on the nation's largest spy agency, they’re lining up to avoid a similar fate. And firms that specialize in protecting corporate data say that’s been a boon.

There's a million Snowdens of various degrees at work right now, taking data for profit. - Bradford Newman, an attorney who focuses on data theft.

The Snowden news, the report said, “illustrates the risk that exists when an organization must place trust in individuals. Most insider misuse occurs within the boundaries of trust necessary to perform normal duties. That’s what makes it so difficult to prevent.”             

Even the former second-in-command at the National Security Agency has benefited.

Chris Inglis, who helps corporations guard against threats as an advisor for data security firm Securonix, said in an interview with The Times that the Snowden leaks have been good for business.
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