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Data Security and WikiLeaks - Who are the main sources of leaks?

Date Added: November 09, 2011 10:31:15 AM
Author: Astal Mark
Category: Computers & Internet: Security and Encryption
Whistleblowers, both malicious and well-meaning, have long existed in government, law enforcement and similarly sensitive areas. The difference is that now, with the ubiquity of the Internet, they have louder voices able to be heard by many more people. Regardless of their ethics though, whistleblowers are the symptom of a bigger problem: insider data breaches and severity are on the increase. There are three main types you should know about: 1. Disgruntled employees How do you identify malcontents? Threat expert Dawn Cappelli from Carnegie-Mellon University found that two thirds of insider fraud and theft involved IT sabotage by disgruntled employees, often connected with lay-offs and resignations. The Ponemon Institute found that nearly 60 per cent of employees who’d lost or left their jobs took confidential information with them, including customer contact lists and other data that could end up in the hands of competitors. Insiders with IT privileges can do even more harm because the information they steal is more valuable, says the Verizon Business’s 2010 Data Breach Investigations Report. Cappelli agrees: ‘A system administrator who is about to be fired or quits because they are so angry ... [will] create some unknown access path so they can get back into the organisation’ at a later date. Disgruntled employees with privileged IT access and little supervision aren’t limited just to IT: they include C-level executives and finance staff too. According to Cisco, almost 40% of IT professionals globally are more concerned about the threat from inside than from outside hackers. In a similar survey of 400 IT and security professionals conducted by InformationWeek, the figure was higher at 52% and included accidental as well as malicious leaks. 2. Careless employees Even so, it’s not whistleblowers or disgruntled employees that top the list of biggest ‘confidential data breachers’; it’s the careless ones. Familiar examples include: • In 2010, Zurich UK lost 46,000 customer records including personal identity details, bank account, credit card information and details about insured assets. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) fined Zurich UK £2,275,000 for the breach. • In March 2010 in Sydney, the account details of 42,000 Australian Bank customers were sent to the wrong clients by outsourcer Salmat. • In October 2009, the US Defense Department sent PC hard drives away for repair, exposing millions of records of Army veterans. • Each week, more than 3,300 laptops are lost or go missing at the eight largest airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.US airports report similar numbers of lost laptops, most of them with unencrypted corporate data. Of the Zurich UK breach, FSA’s director Margaret Cole said: ‘Zurich UK let its customers down badly. It failed to oversee the outsourcing arrangement effectively and did not have full control over the data being processed by Zurich SA. To make matters worse, Zurich UK was oblivious to the data loss incident until a year later.’ 3. Those seeking gain This usually involves senior employees who steal corporate secrets either to sell, or to impress their new employers. One example involved a Ford product engineer, Xiang Dong “Mike” Yu who stole some 4,000 documents and passed them to the Beijing Automotive Company. The trade secrets, worth some $50 million, included specifications for engine, transmission, and electrical designs. Apparently, Ford Motor Company was unaware of the $50 million theft until it was brought to its attention; ironically by a whistle-blower. In 2009, US hospitality group Starwood (owner of Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien brands) filed suit against the Hilton Hotel group which had hired several Starwood executives. The lawsuit charged that some executives had taken trade secrets, which Hilton then used to develop its new Denizen Hotels concept. Starwood claims that the former head of its luxury brands group downloaded over 100,000 files to his laptop, ‘truckloads of documents when printed’.26 Like Ford, intellectual property valued in the tens of millions of dollars had been easily stolen - without the knowledge of its owner.
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