Insider Threat Common Behaviors: Spotting the Wolf


Insider Threat Common Behaviors: Spotting the Wolf

Let us examine some of the most commonly identified patterns of Insider Threat traits and behaviors. These may seem like unsavory characteristics, but then Insider Threats are unsavory characters.

Before we begin – a word of caution: Just because an individual displays one or more of these behaviors or traits does not necessarily mean that you should automatically judge them as untrustworthy or as a potential Insider Threat problem.  It does indicate that perhaps you could pay more attention to that individual. Also, if you see yourself in any of the below descriptions, do not view this as a judgment that YOU are an Insider Threat. (That is, unless you really are!)

Over the past two decades, Carnegie Mellon University has studied Insider Threats from all types of organizations and has identified a number of shared characteristics. Here are some of these observed traits:

Tendency For Violating Organizational Rules & Regulations

According to Carnegie Mellon, Insider Threats demonstrate a tendency for violating or bypassing organizational rules and regulations. They may have an overly inflated view of their own capabilities, which may evidence itself in bitterness towards those who do not appear to acknowledge their special talents. An Insider may tend to perceive criticism or disagreement with supervisors or co-workers as a personal insult that justifies revenge.

Lack of Self-Control

Lack of self-control is indicative of an individual who is immature or impulsive. These individuals may evolve into Insider Threats since they may use poor judgment or be irresponsible and unpredictable. Individuals who are immature or impulsive may also demonstrate a pattern of deceitful, unreliable, or rule-breaking behavior and little self-control. The Insider Threat motivated by impulse may give in to a desire for quick, easy gratification of their financial or emotional desires without considering the full consequences of their actions.

Anti-Social Behaviors

Anti-social behaviors displayed by Insider Threats include those that habitually defy the commonly accepted rules of society. Manipulation of others and deceitfulness are central characteristics. Anti-social individuals will resent authority and dislike supervision. If they experience a problem at work, they will blame others and they can manipulate others without remorse.

Inability to Form and Maintain Healthy, Long-Term Relationships

Many Insider Threats exhibit an inability to form and maintain healthy, long-term relationships – whether personal or within their organization. These individuals often display a pattern of poor relationships or an erratic work history, with frequent job changes without an equivalent career advancement.

A Desire for Revenge or Vindictiveness

Revenge is not just a TV show! A desire for revenge or vindictiveness is evident in many examples of Insider Threats. Vindictive behavior can range from physical damage, sabotage of IT systems and networks, to theft of IP, to espionage. This type of behavior is often found jointly with narcissism, where self-esteem is based on a grossly inflated opinion of themselves.

Overly Conscientious Worker

One other indicator, which may not be intuitive, is that the Insider Threat may often appear to be an overly conscientious worker, often volunteering for late shifts or those unwanted work schedules. These over-zealous workers may actually be taking advantage of the absence of observation by others within the organization.

Keeping Insider Threats on Watch

Clearly, not all Insider Threats demonstrate ALL of these traits, but research has indicated that an unusually large number of Insider Threat cases possessed at least one or more of the above characteristics. It is also critical to look for mitigating character strengths when considering these behaviors as indicators of possible Insider Threats. These patterns of character strength include a demonstration of a well-developed social consciousness, capacity for loyalty and commitment, sound judgment, and self-discipline. 

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