Area of Concern

Digital Intelligence


DoD-Insider Threat Program, OUSD[I&S]

A wide range of technological, social, economic, political, and environmental factors are changing the landscape for insider threat prevention. The DoD defines an insider threat as anyone who “has, or once had authorized access to information, a facility, a network, a person, or a resource of the Department; and wittingly, or unwittingly, commits an act in contravention of law or policy that resulted in, or might result in, harm through the loss or degradation of government or company information, resources, or capabilities; or a destructive act, which may include physical harm to another in the workplace.”

This report and its accompanying map highlight ten future forces shaping the landscape within which insider threat prevention efforts operate. For each category—social, technological, economic, environmental, and political—two future forces and a combination of emerging threats and opportunities for the future of counter-insider threat are described. Each force describes a broad change that will reshape the insider threat mission space. 

The implications and opportunities presented in this report provide a starting point for identifying promising areas for future research that will help DoD develop and implement key strategic, operational, and tactical plans for upstream resilience against insider threat.

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Social Forces: (1) Shifting Identities, Roles, and Family Dynamics will challenge institutions to quickly adapt practices and processes. This force poses the threat of reactionary backlash, as well as opportunities to better understand how to strategically activate identities and to cultivate resilient identity portfolios; and (2) Increasing Loneliness and Disaffiliation demand new approaches to building community within the workplace. This force includes the threat of remote work breaking social connections, and opportunities to improve mental health measures and facilitate relationship building.

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Technological Forces: (1) Compromised Cybersecurity and Resilience will require approaches that rely on strengthening the technical capabilities of systems and awareness of risks among the workforce. This force includes the threats of algorithmic security management and deep web risks, and the opportunity to view insiders as assets; and (2) Intentional Manipulation of Perceptions becomes more sophisticated and targeted, creating increased confusion about what is real. This force includes the threats of targeted misinformation and proliferating deepfakes, and the opportunity to develop cognitive and technical immunity.

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Economic Forces: (1) Fissuring of Work has created new financial security challenges, increased expectations for flexibility, and growing needs for stability. This force includes the threat of eroding household financial security, and provides opportunities to rethink trade-offs between stability and flexibility and to remake the workplace for Generation Z; and (2) The widening gap between Extreme Winners and Losers has created new threats of IP theft and increasing inequality. This force includes the threats of accelerating talent wars and rising deaths of despair, and provides opportunities to rethink how to reward top performers fairly.

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Environmental Forces: (1) Persistent Climate Risk and Volatility increase chronic and acute mental health challenges. This force includes threats such as the human costs of extreme events and the emotional stress that they exacerbate, and the opportunity to understand the links between climate change, mental health, and insider threat; and (2) New Measures of Risk and Resilience point to novel ways to use local interventions to improve resilience. This force includes the threat of economic fallout, and opportunities to mount social and community interventions and develop a new playbook for responding to disasters.

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Political Forces: (1) Community Polarization is further exacerbated by negative feedback loops from social networks. This force includes the threat of social platforms accelerating mistrust and of polarization sparking fringe movements, and provides opportunities to implement new understandings of mitigating polarization; and (2) Mitigating Institutional Mistrust requires the creation of metrics-based systems that will mature over the coming decade. This force provides opportunities for developing portable reputation scores, practicing anticipatory transparency, and fostering community trust.

The goal of this research—and of moving upstream—is to proactively identify emerging threat vectors in order to identify opportunities to create innovative, holistic, and positive mitigation and prevention strategies that intervene before insider threat events take place. Moving Upstream 2030, p. 49
Moving Upstream 2030: Protecting the DoD Workforce Against Future Insider Threats
Protecting the Do D Workforce
Protecting the Do D Workforce

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