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How to protect yourself against rogue IT staff

One rogue employee can do immense damage

One rogue IT employee can do more damage than an army of hackers. Here's how three companies could have better protected themselves.

Cost to the company
Linkous estimates that the incident cost the company a total of $250,000 to $300,000, which includes Sabera's fee, the cost of flying Ed to the West Coast on short notice, the cost of litigation against Ed, the costs associated with hiring a temporary network administrator and a new CIO, and the cost of making all of its software licences legitimate.

Preventive measures
What could have prevented this disaster? Obviously, at least one other person should have known the passwords. But more significant was the lack of separation of duties. The retailer had a small IT staff (just six employees), so Ed was entrusted with both administrative and security responsibilities. That meant he was monitoring himself.

Separating duties can be a particularly tough challenge for companies with small IT staffs, Linkous acknowledges. He suggests small companies monitor everything, including logs, network traffic and system configuration changes, and have the results evaluated by someone other than the system administrator and his or her direct reports. Most important, he says, is to let IT people know that they are being watched.

Second, the company failed to do a thorough background check when it hired Ed. In CERT's research, 30 percent of the insiders who committed IT sabotage had a previous arrest history. In fact, any kind of false credentials should raise a red flag. Although the company had done a criminal background check on Ed (which was clean), it did not verify the credentials on his CV, some of which were later found to be fraudulent. (He did not, for example, have the MBA that he claimed to have.)

Third, Ed's personality could have been viewed as a red flag. "He seemed to believe that he was smarter than everyone else in the room," says Linkous, who met Ed face-to-face by posing as an ERP vendor before the sting operation. Ed's arrogance reminded Linkous of the infamous Enron executives. "He was extremely confident, cocky and very dismissive of other people."

CERT has found that rogues often have prickly personalities. "We don't have any cases where, after the fact, people said, 'I can't believe it - he was such a nice guy,'" says Cappelli.

NEXT PAGE: Outsourcing incenses employees

  1. One rogue employee
  2. Pirating software and worse
  3. The cost to the company
  4. Outsourcing incenses employees
  5. Preventative measures
  6. A firing gone very wrong
  7. The best defence is multipronged

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