This software company says it can predict a bad employee

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Is one of your employees about to steal your data?

It happens a lot – both to big companies and small.  According to a 2014 surveyby the National Small Business Association, 44 percent of respondents had been victims of at least one cyberattack, with an average cost of$8,700.  Many of the attacks on small businesses come from the outside.  But, in some incidents, it’s the firm’s employees who are the culprits.

A software firm called RedOwl Analytics is trying to do something about this growing problem, according to this report from Quartz.  The new service – introduced recently – is designed to track the behavior of all of the employees at a company with the goal of finding that one who is planning a data breach or possibly looking to steal intellectual property or other sensitive information.

The report cites evidence studies by Oxford University and Intel that found more and more employees are increasingly attacking their companies and that internal employees were behind 43 percent of data breaches. Maybe that employee is working unusual hours. Or suddenly sending emails in different languages.  Or sending and receiving more external emails over internal ones than before. It’s all about their behavior – and what they’re doing that may trigger a red flag.

“Think about yourself, probably pretty much every day looks the same,” says Brian White, the chief operating officer told Quartz. “You go to work around the same time, you’re sending a certain amount of emails. There are spikes and changes but often those are driven by deadlines or holiday. We’re looking for something outside the norm.”

Sure, there are privacy concerns. But many companies I know already use software to monitor whether employees are visiting frivolous or unsavory sites. And yes, most of Red Owl’s customers are big companies – defense contractors and large financial services firms. But small businesses suffer these same problems and many clients I know would have great interest in this type of predictive analytics. Is it foolproof?  Can this software actually predict when an employee is going bad? I’d like to think it improves our chances. And as the technology grows in popularity it’s likely we’ll see more products like these packaged and priced for the small business market.


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