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External and Internal Data Must be Combined to Best Identify and Prevent Insider Threats to Government Operations

New TransUnion research finds that non-obvious data sources must be viewed in context to maximize insider threat program effectiveness

Aldrich Ames. Robert Hanssen. Edward Snowden. These are just some of the names that remind us that insider threat risks are an ever-present danger to the government and to government contractors and integrators bound to the National Industrial Security Program (NISP).

To help mitigate these risks, a new analysis from TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) highlights how consumer credit and public records data can be used together to create a comprehensive behavioral risk score for employees who have access to sensitive information. TransUnion’s research was discussed today during the Insider Threat Programs and Continuous Evaluation Summit in Washington, D.C.

“The vast majority of government employees and government contractors conduct their business responsibly,” said Jonathan McDonald, executive vice president of TransUnion’s government information solutions division. “However, the small fraction of employees that may be considered insider threats can cause catastrophic consequences for the United States.

“Those persons who commit illicit acts against their employer are often dealing with financial hardships and are presented with monetary opportunities from adversaries; or have derogatory changes in employment such as a demotion or other work-related issues. Agencies know when an employment situation changes, but typically do not have insight into the financial hardships of their employees or what is happening from a public records perspective. Combining agency data with TransUnion risk scores creates powerful insight.”

While a government agency may know that an employee has been demoted, TransUnion can alert employers about other critical information. For example, an employer may want to know if a government employee handling sensitive information has been increasing their debts at a rapid pace; becoming delinquent on multiples accounts; or if they have legal problems such as a DUI. “Licensed government agency employees are able to use this data to help build a better, more comprehensive picture of an employee that handles sensitive information,” said McDonald.

TransUnion’s analysis observed anonymous, aggregated data for consumers in the armed services, intelligence community, homeland security and justice and civilian agencies and compared them to non-government consumers. According to this research, government employees generally have higher delinquency rates and larger debt loads than non-government consumers.

“The higher debt levels of government employees is likely a result of more of them possessing a mortgage compared to the general public,” said Jeffrey Huth, vice president of product strategy in TransUnion’s government information solutions division. “Negative data exists, but without the context of time or corroborating data it isn’t that useful in determining insider threats. That’s why it is critical for government agencies and businesses to utilize more resources to better understand the sometimes unique dynamics that are at play for their respective organizations.”

TransUnion found that the key external data assets government organizations need to access include:

  • Events that indicate a change in financial wellness
  • Life patterns measured through non-financial data
  • Sudden and unexplained affluence
  • Long-term deterioration of financial well-being

An especially important asset for insider threat programs is trended data. Whereas a traditional credit report offers a snapshot of a consumer at a point in time, trended data assets leverage historical data to help determine a pattern. For example, a traditional credit report may tell you a consumer has $10,000 in credit card debt, but one using trended data would also show you whether they have built up, paid down or maintained that balance over time.

As part of its Insider Threat offerings, TransUnion has created the CreditVision® Financial Distress Score which measures the likelihood that a person will be in financial distress in the future based upon their past and current financial posture. Using this score, TransUnion found that almost 30% of government employees run the risk of financial distress within the upcoming year and almost 15% are severely at risk.

“Though most government employees who are under financial distress may not pose an insider threat risk, the use of trended data combined with an agency’s own information may help thwart potential dangers,” said Huth. “With this information, employers will now have a better indication on whether or not their critical employees who have access to sensitive information may be heading in a direction of financial distress. Knowing early enough may allow them to help the employee before they are in trouble and looking for a way out.”

For more information about TransUnion’s Insider Threat solutions, please click here.

About TransUnion (NYSE:TRU)

Information is a powerful thing. At TransUnion, we realize that. We are dedicated to finding innovative ways information can be used to help individuals make better and smarter decisions. We help uncover unique stories, trends and insights behind each data point, using historical information as well as alternative data sources. This allows a variety of markets and businesses to better manage risk and consumers to better manage their credit, personal information and identity. Today, TransUnion has a global presence in more than 30 countries and a leading presence in several international markets across North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Through the power of information, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies and families and safer communities worldwide.

We call this Information for GoodSM.