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Cyber Security: The Insider Threat

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By Joe Campos
Associate Professor and Program Director of the Intelligence Studies Program at American Public University

As cyber issues develop, it is increasingly clear that cyber security is an ever evolving field.  Most recent issues stemming from specifics released by Edward Snowden on the United States’ surveillance program, reveal a variety of problems that need to be addressed, including that of the balance between civil liberties and national security and that of the insider threat.

In the February 12, 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “we know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, [and] our air traffic control systems.”

Although foreign cyber threats will always remain an area of focus, the Snowden case raises new questions about the risk that insiders pose to government and corporate cyber security.  In an annual study conducted by Verizon, 14 percent of confirmed data breaches originated from an insider threat. Although often overlooked, clearly the insider threat is a potentially damaging component of cyber security. Anyone with access to sensitive information can be a problem for cyber security.

The concern over insider threats is not just the result of the Edward Snowden case, but comes on the heels of the Bradley Manning leaks that commenced in February 2010. As a result of the investigation into Bradley Manning leak, the Whitehouse released Executive Order 13587 that addresses safeguarding classified networks and is a seminal work for the entire Intelligence Community.

Despite this executive order, there still exist gaps that need to be rectified. Thus, an important to question to ask ourselves is what can be done to ensure security in an ever changing environment with multiple working components?

There are many complex issues raised by these recent developments and the Intelligence Community will continue to need to be nimble in its ability to identify and address new threats. Preparation can come from on the job experiences, continuing education courses, and from formal Intelligence Studies education programs.

For example, to help prepare professionals for these challenges, the American Public University School of Security and Global Studies, developed a course in Counterintelligence and the Insider Threat (INTL 639) as part of the Intelligence Studies program.  This course will address the issues presented by the United States cyber infrastructure for communications, management of critical infrastructure, and command and control of the military.

Two additional courses, Cyber and the Intelligence Cycle (INTL 644) and Case Studies in Foreign Cyber Threats (INTL 649), are also being added to the program.  Together, these three courses are designed to will enhance students’ awareness of cyber security issues and provide insight into cyber threats, collections and analysis.

There are sure to be new cyber security threats in the days, months, and years to come. Intelligence professionals need to be prepared to deal with known threats and respond to new and emerging threats. The education of the intelligence professional—on the job and in the classroom–can never end.

About the Author:

Joseph Campos is an Associate Professor and Program Director of the Intelligence Studies Program at APUS.  He is the author of “The State and Terrorism: National Security Discourse and the Mobilization of Power”, 2007.  His research lies in state’s discursive maneuvers that are used to inscribe and prescribe specific agency to issues and events.  As well as, how the state constructs imagined states of relevance that are the convergence of knowledge, powers, histories, institutions, and agents. It is in the convergence of these categories that a practice of statecraft is revealed. Once constructed, an issue’s relevance is consistently articulated and re-articulated, produced and re-produced for the consumption of the citizenry.

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