The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), the National Insider Threat Task Force (NITTF), the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence and Security, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), and the Department of Homeland Security today launched the fifth annual “National Insider Threat Awareness Month” (NITAM).
NITAM is an annual campaign during September to educate government and industry about the risks posed by insider threats and the role of insider threat programs in deterring, detecting, and mitigating such threats. Federal insider threat programs are composed of multi-disciplinary teams that address insider threats while protecting privacy and civil liberties of the workforce. For additional information about the NITAM 2023 campaign and resources available to organizations, visit the NITAM 2023 website.
All organizations are vulnerable to insider threats. An insider threat is anyone with authorized access who uses that access to wittingly or unwittingly harm an organization or its resources. The damage resulting from insider threats can range from espionage, cyber intrusions, and unauthorized disclosures, to theft, sabotage, and workplace violence. Most insider threats exhibit concerning behavior prior to committing negative workplace events. If identified early, many insider threats can be mitigated before harm occurs.
This year’s NITAM campaign focuses on bystander engagement. An engaged bystander is an individual who is aware of concerning behaviors and knows how to act on those concerns appropriately. The NITAM 2023 campaign encourages government and industry employees to recognize and report behaviors of concern to appropriate parties so early intervention can occur and at-risk employees can be connected to resources and assistance if appropriate.
“Insider threats continue to pose serious risks to our national security as well as to government and industry organizations nationwide,” said NCSC Executive Director Mirriam-Grace MacIntyre. “Bystander engagement is critical to helping organizations detect and mitigate such threats before harm occurs. When we witness concerning behaviors in the workplace – whether it’s a security violation or a situation that could escalate into violence — we can’t afford to ignore it. Through training and awareness programs, organizations should ensure their employees know what to report and to whom in order to mitigate potential threats early.”
Throughout September, various agencies across the U.S. government plan to hold events to reinforce the importance of bystander engagement, highlight the risks posed by insider threats, and share best practices for mitigation. On September 7, for instance, insider threat practitioners from across the U.S. government and industry will participate in the unclassified, virtual DCSA Conference for Insider Threat.
Recent examples underscore the damage that can be caused by insider threats:
- In August 2023, two active-duty members of U.S. Navy were arrested in separate cases in California for allegedly transmitting sensitive U.S. military information to intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
- In June 2023, a former analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Kansas City was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for illegally retaining documents related to national defense at her residence.
- In June 2023, a U.S. Air National Guardsman in Massachusetts was indicted for allegedly retaining and transmitting classified national defense information on a social media platform from roughly 2022 until his arrest in April of this year.
- In June 2023, a U.S. Army private pleaded guilty in New York to terrorism charges for attempting to help the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East
- In May 2023, a software developer/engineer was arrested on a federal criminal complaint alleging he stole sensitive technologies that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear submarines and military aircraft from two of his California-based employers and used them to market his own competing company to businesses in the PRC.
- In May 2023, federal charges were unsealed against a former Apple employee in connection with his alleged scheme to steal Apple technology related to autonomous systems. The defendant fled to China after his California home was searched by the FBI.