The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says disgruntled or former employees now pose a “significant” threat to the U.S. business community “due to their authorized access to sensitive information and the networks’ business rely on,” VentureBeat reports.

employeeIn a public service announcement released Tuesday, the agency says “there has been an increase in computer network exploitation and disruption by disgruntled and/or former employees.”

In a multitude of incidents fired information tech workers have used their passwords to harm an ex-employer — destroying data, obtaining customer information and buying goods and services using customer accounts.

In addition, “theft of proprietary information in many of these incidents was facilitated through the use of cloud storage Web sites, like Dropbox, and personal e-mail accounts.”

In many cases, notes the agency, disgruntled ex-workers have also “had continued access to the computer networks through the installation of unauthorized remote desktop protocol software. The installation of this software occurred prior to leaving the company.”

One very interesting tidbit in the PSA: Homeland Security reveals that some ex-workers have used their access to software and their knowledge of it to blackmail their ex-employers for financial gain. If their ex-employers don’t capitulate to their demands, former IT staffers have threatened to wreak havoc on companies’ computer systems by changing and restricting access to company websites and disabling content management systems.

The aggregate costs of these inside cyber attacks can be high, ranging from $5,000 to $3 million, says the agency. This figures take into account the value of stolen data, IT services, legal fees and the purchase of credit monitoring services for employees and customers affected by a data breach.

To prevent these incidents, the agency provides a number of tips that should be no-brainers to anyone who has worked at a U.S. company since the advent of the internet. They include terminating accounts of workers who no longer work for a company as well as not using shared usernames and passwords for remote desktop software.

There are other actions that the agency recommends, which Venturebeat drolly paraphrases: “Have security load their stuff in a box and frog-march them out the door. And before that person is even out the foyer, walking to his or her car, have the IT people go in and change the password access to computers without delay.”

Source: Venturebeat Pissed off tech workers are big national security risks, say feds

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