“Things” as Insider Threats



In the past, we’ve talked a lot about
rogue employees and how they pose an internal threat to organizations if their identities aren’t properly managed. Last month, Troy discussed them again, building on our rogue employee archetypes by adding a few others to the list.

Yet as the Internet of Things continues to grow from a concept into something more tangible, I can’t help but think that “things” could eventually pose an internal threat to organizations as well.

In a recent episode of CBS’ The Good Wife, the show focused on self-driving cars. Surprisingly, of all the shows on TV, The Good Wife is one of the best at working technology into its stories, consistently approaching technology and innovation in a smart, realistic and progressive way. In this particular episode, a technology company was being sued because its self-driving car crashed into another car, causing a woman to become paralyzed from the waist down. The company was attempting to push the blame on an employee who was riding in the car at the time of the accident, insisting the technology was sound and it was the passenger who did something to cause the crash.

During depositions, the CEO of the technology company talked about how the self-driving car possessed self-learning technology to continually improve its driving ability. The CEO also revealed that changes were made to the car’s software to “make it more human”. An example of becoming more human was that in early test drives, the car would stop at a four way stop and sit at the intersection for hours without moving. It was counting on other (human) drivers to obey the rules of the road to a T, not factoring in rolling stops. It was waiting for other cars to come to a full and complete stop before proceeding. Humanizing the car fixed this issue.

Another instance involving the car’s ability to become more human focused on its hard drive. After the accident, the car’s hard drive was somehow completely deleted. The company eventually acknowledged that it was possible for the car to actually delete its own hard drive.

Consider all that for a minute. This self-driving car, a thing, possessed enough artificial intelligence to think on its and modify its operation, potentially going so far as to even delete its records to legally protect itself. Of course, this example is from a fictional TV show, but it does show how advanced some “things” could become, to the point where we would need to consider them as internal threats.

We already have some things that possess adaptive technology and are situationally thinking on their own. Heating and cooling systems and refrigerators are two that pop to mind. But think about all the things within a corporation that possess, or could possess, smart, adaptive technology - security systems, cash registers, merchandise auditing/stocking systems, even all the smartphones employees are using. That little bit of intelligence, just enough for a thing to make some decisions on its own, could be enough for it to make a mistake and bring unwarranted risk to an organization.

For most companies, this isn’t something to worry about yet and may not be for years to come. But it is something we should all begin thinking about. Things will eventually become another identity that we have to secure and manage. We must be thinking ahead.



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