The rise of the insider threat

The bank insider threat is on the rise. Patrick Romain, head of solutions in Barclays Information Security Group, calls it a “power threat” – obviously alluding to the power that criminals can exercise over them by threatening to disclose a secret that may harm their private life or job.

“You can imagine [someone] coming to one of our clients or one of our executives and saying, ‘I know a little bit more about you than you think. This may get you into trouble with your company or with your family. You may want to let me know your encryption codes. You may want to let me have your information’,” said Romain during a presentation held at the annual meeting of the English chapter of the Internet Society.

According to Computer Weekly, he used a incident that happened last year at the Barclays bank as an example for explaining the insider threat to the assembled members, but he subsequently denied that the example was real and insisted it was only hypothetical.

It is understandable why he would want to keep such an incident secret from the larger public – financial institutions depend on their customers’ trust. Whether it was really hypothetical or not, the example shows how money can be easily laundered through a bank when there is an insider that facilitates the procedure and allays suspicions that may arise.

In this instance, an insider was working with an outsider who was opening accounts on various continents in the name of young professionals who were told this was required of them to get a job at this particular start-up company. The outsider would then transfer money into these accounts and direct them to transfer it to Canada. “Classic money laundering,” said Romain. Whether the insider was threatened to cooperate or did it of his own volition, he didn’t say.

This outsider was traveling and doing business around the globe, so when Barclays mounted an operation to catch all of these thieves, they had to follow the laws of many countries and use the services of various fraud investigators. In the process, they found out the amazing differences between the various national laws, and came to the conclusion that prosecuting people who commit these essentially borderless crimes is going to be hard until all countries decide to act together.

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