Year in Review – Insider Risk in 2023

Introduction

As we settle into 2024, it’s important to look back at the tumultuous journey of 2023, a year characterised by considerable geopolitical shifts and a corresponding escalation in diverse espionage activities. The persisting conflict in Ukraine significantly altered the international arena, heightening risks associated with nation-state, economic, and academic espionage. These changes have emphasised the complex and high-stakes nature of global espionage, underscoring the critical importance of information security in today’s world.

Top 5 Insider Risk Cases of 2023

1. 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, a now former cyber defence operations journeyman in the Air Force’s Intelligence Wing, is awaiting trial over posting dozens of classified documents on Discord. Read more here on the effects of one of the largest leaks of U.S. intelligence material in years.

2. A $233 million loss was incurred by Samsung Electronics after a former executive was arrested on suspicion of stealing intellectual property with the aim of creating a copy-cat chip factory in China. Read more here on the legislative impact the flurry of Intellectual Property theft cases are having in South Korea.

3. Canada’s current espionage laws were tested at trial for the first time in 2023. Cameron Ortis was found guilty of leaking intelligence to organised crime figures from his position in Canada’s national police force. Read more here on the significance of this landmark case.

4. In a significant data breach incident, over 100 Gigabytes of confidential information from Tesla was exposed through an act of whistleblowing. This leak included sensitive customer and employee personal data, proprietary production secrets, and various customer complaints regarding Tesla’s driver assistance system. The case gained notable attention, particularly due to the involvement of the German newspaper Handelsblatt in reporting the incident. For a more detailed insight into this case and its implications, you can read further on Tesla’s whistleblowing case.

5. Executives at Omnic SAS, a Paris-based semiconductor manufacturer, were indicted for allegedly $13.2 million worth of proprietary technology to competitors in China and Russia, illegally. The exetuvies personally delivered chips to Russian buyers and forged paperwork for shipments to Chine weapons manufacturers. Read more here on the highly significant corporate espionage case.

Top Insider Risk Cases 2023

Honourable Mention

The British Museum fell victim to an “inside job” when around 2,000 artifacts had been stolen from its collections. The individual exploited a position of trust over a span of years, with their thefts largely going unnoticed. Read more here on this case highlighting the multifaceted challenges of insider risk.

2024 Insider Risk Outlook: Key Trends Shaping the Future

As we progress through 2024, several key trends and developments in the field of insider risk are important to keep an eye on:

  1. AI’s Role in Compliance and Risk Management: AI, particularly generative AI, is revolutionising the way organisations manage compliance and risk. AI-based tools are being increasingly utilised to analyse and interpret complex regulatory documents, identify policy gaps, and provide instant answers to compliance-related questions. These advancements are crucial in reducing manual labour and enhancing efficiency and agility in risk prevention. However, alongside these benefits, there’s a need to remain vigilant about AI’s potential to introduce additional risks in an ever-growing and complex regulatory landscape.

  2. Global AI Regulations: With the European Union’s legal framework for AI coming into force in the first quarter of 2024, there is an urgent need for organisations to prepare for compliance, particularly in risk management and regulatory alignment. This legislation aims to ensure AI safety and adherence to fundamental rights, along with promoting legal clarity to encourage AI investment and innovation. Similar initiatives in the US and UK are also underway, signalling a global shift towards more regulated AI usage.

  3. Cybersecurity Threats: Cybersecurity remains a central concern, with the increase in remote and hybrid work models leading to new vulnerabilities. The rise in cyberattacks and insider threats, including sophisticated ransomware attacks and the misuse of AI by threat actors, poses significant challenges. Organisations should focus on continuous monitoring, regular security policy updates, and employee training to mitigate these risks.

  4. The Russia-Ukraine War: The conflict in Ukraine, which shows no signs of abating, is causing a ripple effect in global geopolitics and security. This prolonged conflict increases the risk of espionage, particularly in sectors related to defense, energy, and technology. Companies must strengthen their internal security protocols and be vigilant against potential breaches.

  5. Chinese Espionage Activities: Chinese espionage remains a critical concern in 2024, especially in technology, intellectual property, and trade secrets. The focus is not just on traditional corporate espionage but also on academic and research sectors, where sensitive information can be targeted. Companies dealing with advanced technology, research and development, and those who have supply chains or partnerships in China need to be particularly cautious. 

These trends demand a strategic and balanced approach, leveraging AI advancements while countering associated risks, strengthening cybersecurity defenses, and adapting to the changing regulatory and geopolitical landscape. In this dynamic environment, organisations need to remain informed and agile to navigate the complexities of insider risk effectively in 2024.

Read about the developments at Signpost Six in 2023

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