Confronting the Insider Threat

By Laura Spadanuta

Narcissism is also singled out as a possible red flag by Dan McGarvey, security program director for Global Skills X-Change (GSX) and member of the insider threat working group under the ASIS International Defense and Intelligence Council. 

Histrionic personality disorder is another. That disorder is associated with a need for attention, and approval, and excessive emotion. A third red flag is antisocial personality disorder, which is often known as sociopathy.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that with some of these characteristics, such as narcissism, they may also be present in high performers in certain organizations, so they can’t be something that you simply use to screen out potential threats. The real problem is distinguishing between the types of people who are not a danger to the company and those who have a higher potential to become one, says Kabilan.
McGarvey has been doing research that tries to identify certain models that incorporate the various types of personalities that are often seen in insider threats. He believes they have encapsulated most threats in three models. The first is the counterproductive workplace behavior model, which McGarvey says has to do with issues of control, and a feeling of a need to take back individual control. He says this model includes someone like Bradley Manning, a soldier who passed classified material to the Web site WikiLeaks. McGarvey says this model also describes perpetrators of workplace violence, such as Army Major Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood.

The second model is the organizational citizen, which is where Snowden might fit. These are “individuals who have a very strong sense of justice and in what they believe is right,” says McGarvey.

The third model is called Ten Stages in the Life of a Spy, and it looks at the steps an individual must go through to become a spy and sustain spying.

“So those three models put together actually then account for just about everyone we’ve seen in terms of inappropriate behavior in the work force,” McGarvey says.

Harley Stock, a forensic psychologist who has worked with insider theft, advises that when companies are looking to weed out people like Snowden, it’s important to include personality assessments in the screening. “Some of the things that you look for [indicating] a guy like [Snowden] is somebody who’s overly moralistic, who has very strongly held beliefs about how the world should operate, so they have the kind of rigidity in their personality that things are right or wrong, black or white. There’s no gray area. There’s no area for negotiation, compromise, or alternative views of the world. And that, somehow, his view is the correct view.”

Stock says Snowden uses a psychological justification mechanism to say, “They’re wrong, I’m right, therefore, I have a moral, ethical obligation to do something about it.”



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