Every September, federal agencies observe National Insider Threat Awareness Month (NITAM) to emphasize the importance of safeguarding our nation from insider threats. Bringing awareness to what is considered one of the biggest threats facing organizations can be incredibly beneficial to protect your assets. Without further ado, here is a review of some of the most newsworthy perpetrators of insider threats that we thought would be interesting to highlight.
Edward Snowden – Possibly the most publicized case of insider threat, Edward Snowden was a contractor working in the NSA when he leaked data regarding a massive phone data collection effort by the organization. To avoid prosecution in the United States, he was granted permanent residency in Russia. Additionally, he is being sued by the U.S. government for publishing a book that violated his non-disclosure agreements he signed with the 2 agencies he supported.
Robert Hanssen – Another case that made its way to the big screen, Robert Hanssen compromised some of the “nation’s most important intelligence and military secrets” and provided them to the KGB. He began his espionage 3 years after starting with the FBI. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Chelsea Manning – Chelsea, known as Bradley while in the Army, was an Intelligence agent who possessed a top secret clearance. Bradley downloaded four nearly complete databases from departments and agencies of the US, mostly comprised of classified information. Bradley then provided this information to Julian Assange, who held no clearance nor a need to know of this data. They also conspired to compromise a password that would allow Manning to access data under a username that did not belong to Manning.
Nghia Pho – A former NSA computer engineer brought home “massive troves of highly classified national defense information without authorization and kept it at his home” which caused disruption of some Signals Intelligence work. Pho was sentenced to 66 months in prison, plus 3 years supervised release.
Harold Thomas Martin III – Harold was a government contractor who was sentenced to nine years in Federal Prison plus 3 years of supervised release for spending over 20 years exploiting his clearance, up to a TS/SCI, to steal government data, including data classified as TS/SCI.
There are many reasons why individuals engage in this type of activity--greed, coercion, distrust of the U.S. government, putting themselves in a situation where they have no other perceived choice. Whatever the motivation for insider threat, it is important to stay vigilant. If you “See Something, Say Something.” Public safety and security is everyone’s responsibility.
By Charlie Donat, Sr. Security Engineer