A new type of hacker: employee sharing proprietary information


Most New Jersey business owners understand the ramifications of sharing trade secrets with other companies. Competition is tough in many industries and allowing outsiders access to a company's proprietary information can mean serious economic losses and even force a company to shut down. However, many of those who willingly share a company's personal information are not hackers. Some are simply former disgruntled employees.

This situation recently came to light after federal prosecutors charged a 26-year-old man with aiding a hacker in the defacing of the Los Angeles Times website. He was a former employee of a Tribune Co.-owned television station in Sacramento, California. He was fired in October 2010 and immediately began posting derogatory messages about the company on online chat rooms and his own personal blog. Tribune Co. owns the Los Angeles Times.

The situation has gotten so far out of hand that it is now believed that two-thirds of stolen proprietary information results from the actions of ex-employees. The situation has worsened with the economy, forcing companies to lay off more and more workers. Many times, employees are laid off but their access to the company network is still active. Therefore, they are easily able to access sensitive information and use it against the company as a form of retaliation.

Companies must be extremely careful as to whom they allow access to networks. As this story shows, even employees can use proprietary information inappropriately. Fortunately, sometimes the threat of litigation can be enough to discourage someone from using intellectual property illegally. The man charged in this case is facing a prison sentence of up to 25 years and a fine that can potentially reach $750,000 - not a small punishment.

Source: Huffington Post, " Matthew Keys Case Shows Rogue Employees Can Be Just As Dangerous As Hackers," Gerry Smith, March 19, 2013