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Updated: Oct 25, 2023   |   Chris Denbigh-White

US Documents Leaked Through Discord - How Digital Behavior Changes Insider Risk

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, … Gamer?

In recent days, the disclosure of sensitive US intelligence on the internet has sparked widespread speculation and conjecture. Theories have ranged from whistleblowing akin to Chelsea Manning's notorious leaks, to orchestrated espionage by a hostile state, reminiscent of the infamous Aldrich Ames case. However, as the investigation progresses, it appears that the truth may be more banal: a young individual seeking to flaunt his prowess among peers in an online gaming community. Certainly not the stuff of John le Carré.

Amidst the flurry of theories and conjectures, it now appears that the motivation behind the leak may have been driven by the desire for recognition and admiration in the online gaming realm. What may have begun as a reckless attempt to impress fellow gamers has inadvertently exposed sensitive intelligence to the wider world. This revelation underscores the need for robust security measures in safeguarding classified information, as the motivations behind insider threats can sometimes be driven by seemingly mundane and innocuous factors, with potentially far-reaching consequences in the realm of national security.

Insider threats, regardless of motivation, pose a significant problem to information security in top-secret environments. These threats arise from individuals who have authorized access to sensitive information but misuse or abuse that access for personal gain or malicious purposes–or in this case simply to show off.

As social networks expand digitally, opportunities and motives for insider threat follow

In the realm of identifying insider threats, motive has long been considered a pivotal factor. Traditional theories have posited "triggering events" such as financial distress or workplace conflicts as reliable indicators of insider risk. However, as recent events have shown, identifying individuals who may misuse sensitive data for the purpose of ostentation in an unsuitable forum presents a unique challenge.

The question arises: how does one effectively discern the risk posed by an individual who seeks only to flaunt their access to sensitive information in an inappropriate manner? Unlike traditional triggering events, such motives may not fit the conventional mold of insider threats, making them harder to detect.

What can organizations do to secure data?

As the landscape of insider threats continues to evolve, organizations must proactively adjust their security measures and risk assessment frameworks to address unconventional motives. This includes leveraging greater visibility of user activity and implementing regular security awareness training to effectively detect and mitigate the risk of individuals who may engage in reckless behavior for the purpose of seeking recognition

Regrettably, the current situation serves as a stark reminder that the traditional approaches to protecting sensitive data are demonstrating their shortcomings in the face of a rapidly changing threat landscape.

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