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Security starts from the inside out

By Douglas Schweitzer
December 21, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - On Aug. 23, 2004, a former employee of Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc., a large high-tech company in Gloucester, Mass., was charged in federal court with computer hacking that allegedly caused significant damage to Varian's computer systems.
Patrick Angle, 34, was charged with intentionally damaging a protected computer. The charge alleged that Angle, who had worked for Varian, had become disgruntled with his employment by September 2003 and had been told by the company that his employment contract would be terminated in October of that same year.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said that on Sept. 17, 2003, Angle logged into Varian's server in Massachusetts from his home in Indiana and intentionally deleted the source code for the e-commerce software that he and others had been developing.
In an attempt to cover his tracks, Angle then allegedly edited and deleted some of the activity logs on the server, the statement said. In addition, changes to the server's root password were made, making it difficult for other Varian employees to log onto the server to assess and repair the damage. The software source code that Angle was charged with deleting was developed by Varian at great expense and after investment of many man-hours, and it would be costly to reproduce. Although Varian was ultimately able to recover the deleted material from backups, the recovery effort alone cost the company more than $26,000.
A common misconception is that security threats originate largely from outside malicious hackers, script kiddies and virus writers. As a result of this thinking, many organizations concentrate their computer security efforts on external threats, employing a number of security measures such as intrusion-prevention systems, intrusion-detection systems, firewalls, proxy servers and authentication, to name a few. However, a primary threat to computer systems continues to be the inside attack. Insiders are likely to have specific goals and objectives and often have been granted legitimate access to the system. Disgruntled insiders can plant viruses or keyloggers to readily traverse the network.
It's been argued that the greatest vulnerability for an organization arises from security breaches perpetrated by insiders. Since fraud, theft and blackmail can be accomplished more easily by insiders, implementation of employee awareness programs and computer security policies are imperative for any organization.
Insiders don't require a great deal of know-how regarding computer intrusions. Their firsthand knowledge of victim systems often allows them enough leverage to gain unrestricted access, cause damage to the system or steal system data.
Your security program is only as strong as its weakest link, and even when you have



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