Leaks, theft, and sabotage by employees have become a major cybersecurity problem. One company says it can spot “insider threats” before they happen—by reading all your workers’ email.
On any given morning at a big national bank or a Silicon Valley software giant or a government agency, a security official could start her day by asking a software program for a report on her organization’s staff. “Okay, as of last night, who were the people who were most disgruntled?” she could ask. “Show me the top 10.”
She would have that capability, says Eric Shaw, a psychologist and longtime consultant to the intelligence community, if she used a software tool he developed for Stroz Friedberg, a cybersecurity firm. The software combs through an organization’s emails and text messages—millions a day, the company says—looking for high usage of words and phrases that language psychologists associate with certain mental states and personality profiles. Ask for a list of staffers who score high for discontent, Shaw says, “and you could look at their names. Or you could look at the top emails themselves.”
Many companies already have the ability to run keyword searches of employees’ emails, looking for worrisome words and phrases like embezzle and I loathe this job. But the Stroz Friedberg software, called Scout, aspires to go a giant step further, detecting indirectly, through unconscious syntactic and grammatical clues, workers’ anger, financial or personal stress, and other tip-offs that an employee might be about to lose it.