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Can employers legally use military tech to keep tabs on naughty employees? - Computing

Can employers legally use military tech to keep tabs on naughty employees? - Computing

By Raoul Parekh - 10 December 2015

Employers are using a new generation of tools derived from military technology to manage the risk of their employees stealing confidential information, setting up competing businesses, or becoming a risk to fellow employees.

While the media's focus in recent months has been on the risks companies face from external cyber attacks, the risk posed by employees remains real and present. Employees necessarily have access to highly confidential information, and the IT industry in particular is littered with stories of ex-employees setting up in competition with their former bosses.

IT departments will be familiar with operating basic monitoring tools that stop employees from looking at inappropriate material, or intercepting attachments being sent to webmail addresses. But this approach looks primitive compared to the new generation of tools available.

The new technology combines insights from psychological research with tools developed for military intelligence in order to try to identify "insider threats" (i.e. rogue employees who might steal information, leak trade secrets and/or set up competition) before they crystallise. The technology scans across a broad range of employee communications, encompassing message content as well as time and frequency of network access.

Emails written by employees are scanned to assess tone and psychological state. Analysis is based on the "critical pathway to insider risk" (as set out in an article published in the CIA's journal Studies in Intelligence), a breakdown of the mental journey many employees take before they become a threat to their employer.

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