10 December 2009

Legal Doctrine: Intelligence - led Threat Assessment...

Corporate Threat Assessment is gaining new momentum as "Operational Risk Management" professionals utilize new business processes and tools to preempt human malfeasance. Whether it is the disgruntled employee who has just been separated from the company or the college student who acts against his math teacher for grades; the question remains: How could this have been prevented?
The Washington Post reports:

A disgruntled 20-year-old student walked into a classroom at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Woodbridge on Tuesday afternoon and fired at least two shots from a high-powered rifle at his math teacher, authorities said.

The teacher saw the gun, yelled for her 25 students to duck and then hit the floor.

"We heard a boom," one of the students said later. "I thought to myself, did a computer explode?"

The student's shots missed. He put the gun down, sat on a chair in a fourth-floor hallway and calmly waited for police.

Jason M. Hamilton of Baneberry Circle in the Manassas area was charged with attempted murder and discharging a firearm in school zone. He was being held without bail, and police officers said they wanted to question him about a motive.

The legal machine is at work to determine the multitude of reasons why this incident occurred and to collect the evidence in the case. The investigation into "Who Knew What When" will be spinning up almost simultaneously as the plaintiff lawyers determine what opportunities might exist for a law suit. Several areas of questioning for Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) will include:

1. What evidence is there of a Duty to Care: Did NOVA provide training for professors to alert an internal "Threat Assessment Team" whenever they witnessed or found evidence of specific pre-incident indicators?

2. What evidence is there of a Duty to Warn: Did NOVA warn fellow employees to keep an eye out for any students carrying long slender bags into campus buildings or to monitor parking lots for suspicious activity?

3. What evidence is there of a Duty to Act: Did NOVA provide notice to security employees on the student who was absent during the term for over three weeks ?

4. What evidence is there of a Duty to Supervise: Did NOVA professors report any strange behavior, statements, or even the fact that the student had been absent almost a month?

Human behavioral studies regarding workplace safety suggest, that one in five people come to the institution every day with a serious problem going on in their personal life. This has a dramatic effect not only on workplace performance but also the potential for bad behavior. This bad behavior could be acted out physically or quietly and in stealth mode. In either case, the company, it's employees and the reputation of the institution are at stake. What is your Corporate Threat Assessment Team working on today to preempt the next incident?

As the investigators evaluate the digital evidence in the case such as e-mails, Facebook Wall postings or other information found on a PDA, laptop or home computer the "Smoking Gun" may be uncovered. And when it becomes public, the game changing events will begin to unfold. Many companies feel that having a formal internal "Threat Assessment Team" sends the wrong message to the employees that "Big Brother" is watching. This could not be further from the true state of mind by many employees today. Knowing that a team is proactively addressing the one in five employees everyday in the workplace should provide more peace of mind than the thought of an invasion of privacy.

So what are the typical channels that an employee will use to communicate their grievance or threat?

  • Letter - 2%
  • Phone message - 5%
  • Social Networking site - 7%
  • Text message - 9%
  • e-Mail - 22%
  • Verbal threat - 46%

Source: Laurence Barton, Ph.D. - Current Study to be completed in February, 2010

If this trend continues then over half of the communicated threat will be via a digitally based medium. What is your organization doing today to monitor communications for specific threats to your employees, suppliers or partners? The modification of Acceptable Use Policy and the other legal policy regarding the workplace monitoring of e-mail is not a new phenomenon in many organizations, notably those in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB.)

Recent changes in the privacy settings of Facebook makes much of the information placed in these 350 million profiles public information and therefore, capable of being viewed and analyzed by a proactive threat management team. Here is the analysis from the EFF:

The Ugly: Information That You Used to Control Is Now Treated as "Publicly Available," and You Can't Opt Out of The "Sharing" of Your Information with Facebook Apps

Looking even closer at the new Facebook privacy changes, things get downright ugly when it comes to controlling who gets to see personal information such as your list of friends. Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a "fan" of — as "publicly available information" or "PAI." Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated. For example, although you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting — shown below — has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.

There are legal cases pending and there will be more to come about whether the mining of public data for profiling people is against the law. In most cases, it will be dependent on who is doing the collecting and for what reasons. Yet the most sophisticated systems for doing analytics or the latest matrix or mosaic methodology will not be able to provide a fail safe for the corporate enterprise. This is precisely why the earlier mentioned employer "Duties" are so vital to day to day operational risk management. The actions you take before, during and after an incident will be the most vital to your legal and reputations survival.

TWO computer programmers who worked for convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff were charged with bribery by the US Securities and Exchange Commission today.

Jerome O'Hara and George Perez allegedly took bribes to create false documents and trading records for Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities LLC for more than 15 years, according to the SEC's complaint.

"Without the help of O'Hara and Perez, the Madoff fraud would not have been possible," George S Canellos, director of the SEC's New York regional office, said.

"They used their special computer skills to create sophisticated, credible and entirely phony trading records that were critical to the success of Madoff's scheme for so many years."

Operational Risk Management requires a vigilance of monitoring digital information inside and outside the workplace. Those institutions who combine the correct legal doctrine, business processes and technology will prevail in the vast chaos of litigation and human threats within the workplace.

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