How to stamp out industrial espionage during a recession

Top tips to stop data leaks


At a recent monthly gathering of both good and bad hackers in a dingy pub in Leicester Square, I asked them whether the economy was opening up new opportunities for them.

The response was an overwhelming yes, with nearly everyone saying that the cut backs had caused jobs to be outsourced and, with less folks in IT looking after security, there would be increased room for vulnerabilities and for mistakes to emerge.

They were also quick to state that the sentiment amongst redundant employees was that of disgruntlement and that therefore they were more inclined to exploit loop-holes in their previous employers’ networks.

The hacker community reinforced findings Cyber-Ark had unearthed in a recent survey it had conducted amongst 600 office workers in London’s Canary Wharf, New York’s Wall Street and also in Amsterdam. The study explored whether the recession was affecting peoples’ attitudes to work ethics and data security and, shockingly, it revealed that data theft and industrial espionage were on the up, worryingly not from hackers, but from the workforce itself concerned about impending job losses.

Fifty six percent of workers surveyed said they were worried about losing their jobs because of the economic climate and, in anticipation, over half admitted to downloading competitive corporate data which they had identified as a useful negotiating tool in preparation to secure their next position. Top of the list of desirable information to steal is customer and contact databases, with plans and proposals, product information, and access/password codes all popular choices with a perceived value.

Memory sticks are the smallest, easiest, cheapest and least traceable method of downloading huge amounts of data which is why, according to the Cyber-Ark survey, they’re the “weapon of choice” to sneak out data from under the bosses nose. Other methods were photocopying, emailing, CDs, online encrypted storage websites, smartphones, DVDs, cameras, Skype, and iPods.

Rather randomly, yet disconcerting, is that in the UK, seven percent said they’d resort to memorising important data!

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