Computers Security Business | Information Systems Dissertations

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While attacks on computers by outside intruders are more publicized, attacks perpetrated by insiders are very common and often more damaging. Insiders represent the greatest threat to computer security because they understand their organization’s business and how their computer systems work. They have both the confidentiality and access to perform these attacks. An inside attacker will have a higher probability of successfully breaking into the system and extracting critical information. The insiders also represent the greatest challenge to securing the company network because they are authorized a level of access to the file system and granted a degree of trust. A system administrator angered by his diminished role in a thriving defense manufacturing firm whose computer network he alone had developed and managed, centralized the software that supported the company’s manufacturing processes on a single server, and then intimidated a coworker into giving him the only backup tapes for that software. Following the system administrator’s termination for inappropriate and abusive treatment of his coworkers, a logic bomb previously planted by the insider detonated, deleting the only remaining copy of the critical software from the company’s server. The company estimated the cost of damage in excess of $10 million, which led to the layoff of some 80 employees. An application developer, who lost his IT sector job as a result of company downsizing, expressed his displeasure at being laid off just prior to the Christmas holidays by launching a systematic attack on his former employer’s computer network. Three weeks following his termination, the insider used the username and password of one of his former coworkers to gain remote access to the network and modify several of the company’s web pages, changing text and inserting pornographic images. He also sent each of the company’s customers an email message advising that the website had been hacked. Each email message also contained that customer’s usernames and passwords for the website. An investigation was initiated, but it failed to identify the insider as the perpetrator. A month and a half later, he again remotely accessed the network, executed a script to reset all network passwords and changed 4,000 pricing records to reflect bogus information. This former employee ultimately was identified as the perpetrator and prosecuted. He was sentenced to serve five months in prison and two years on supervised probation, and ordered to pay $48,600 restitution to his former employer. A city government employee who was passed over for promotion to finance director retaliated by deleting files from his and a coworker’s computers the day before the new finance director took office. An investigation identified the disgruntled employee as the perpetrator of the incident. City government officials disagreed with the primary police detective on the case as to whether all of the deleted files were recovered.

No criminal charges were filed, and, under an agreement with city officials, the employee was allowed to resign.

These incidents of sabotage were all committed by “insiders:” individuals who were, or previously had been,

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