Washington, Feb 20 : The development of a new technology, would use data mining techniques to scour email, which could help to prevent serious security breaches, sabotage, and even terrorist activities.
Developed by Gilbert Peterson and colleagues at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson AFB, in Ohio, this technology would be able to help any organization sniff out insider threats by analyzing email activity or find individuals among potentially tens of thousands of employees with latent interests in sensitive topics.
The same technology might also be used to spot individuals who feel alienated within the organization as well as unraveling any worrying changes in their social network interactions.
According to Peterson and colleagues, though security efforts have tended to focus on outside electronic threats, it is insiders that pose the greatest threat to an organization.
Insiders are members of the organization who may have access to sensitive information for legitimate purposes but who could betray that trust for illegitimate reasons.
An aggrieved employee, saboteur, or terrorist infiltrator with access to such information could potentially cause great harm.
Spotting the potential for an insider attack quickly without recourse to huge numbers of investigators is essential to preventing such an occurrence.
Peterson and his colleagues have developed an approach to assist investigators looking for such insider threats based on an extended version of Probabilistic Latent Semantic Indexing (PLSI). This extended technology can discern employees' interests from e-mail and create a social network graph showing their various interactions.
The researchers explain that individuals who have shown an interest in a sensitive topic but who have never communicated to others within the organization on this subject are often the most likely to be an insider threat.
The software can reveal those people either with a secret interest in that topic or who may feel alienated from the organization and so communicate their interest in it only to those outside the organization.
The research team has already tested their approach on the archived body of messages from the liquidated Enron company e-mail system.