The FBI says employees who leak trade secrets and other sensitive information often exhibit behaviors co-workers can pick up on to prevent such breaches.
Joe Muto’s dispatches from inside Fox News lasted for less than 72 hours before the “Fox Mole” was caught and suspended indefinitely (with pay).
April 10, Muto began writing anonymously for Gawker as the Fox Mole . By the next day, he was discovered by Fox--but not before writing a couple critical columns and leaking behind-the-scenes videos “stolen” from the archives.
The FBI says employees who leak trade secrets and other sensitive information often exhibit behaviors co-workers can pick up on to prevent these breaches. What Muto did wasn’t exactly espionage, but Fox News would no doubt categorize him as an insider threat. A fact sheet posted by the FBI on Friday describes how it says workers can spot a possible insider threat and what drives them to leak information.
Some signs that may indicate employees are spying or stealing secrets may come in the form of long hours spent at the office without authorization, taking home proprietary information, and unnecessarily copying materials. Some of the less innocuous activities to look for include frequent short trips to foreign countries for unexplained reasons, suspicious relationships with competitors, and leaving traps to detect searches of their home or office. Often company moles are “overwhelmed by life crises or career disappointments,” the sheet states.
Why do insiders do it? For one, it’s a lot easier to do now that it was in the past. Instead of having to smuggle out stacks of documents, they can be shared by e-mail or portable devices. And then there’s “greed or financial need, unhappiness at work, allegiance to another company or another country, vulnerability to blackmail, the promise of a better job, and/or drug or alcohol abuse,” says the FBI.
Muto’s short stint as the Fox Mole came to an end after it was discovered that the two videos leaked to Gawker had been accessed by someone using his computer weeks leading up to their release.
Muto said some of his frustration came from the inability to get hired anywhere after working for Fox News. “The 10 resumes a month I was sending out dwindled into five, then two, then one, then zero. No one wants me. I'm blacklisted. I work at Fox News Channel,” he wrote in his first column as the Fox Mole. The last straw came after Fox Nation reported President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday party as a “Hip Hop BBQ.”
“The post neatly summed up everything that had been troubling me about my employer: Non sequitur, ad hominem attacks on the president; gleeful race baiting; a willful disregard for facts; and so on,” Muto wrote. And that’s’ when he became the Fox Mole.
Successful insider investigations by the FBI have resulted in large fines and prison sentences. Last year, former Ford employee Xiang Dong Yu was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $12,500 fine as a result of having pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of theft of trade secrets. Files on Yu’s laptop matched files he accessed before leaving Ford.
Elliot Doxer was sentenced to six months in prison and a $25,000 fine for providing trade secrets to an undercover federal agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer. Doxer was hoping to sell the secrets in exchange for money.
Fox hasn’t taken Muto to court over the leaks … yet. Around two weeks after his Gawker debut, the NYPD showed up to Muto’s place with a search warrant looking for evidence of conspiracy to commit grand larceny and computer tampering. The warrant included notes, recordings, CDs, flash drives, computers, or any other way he’d be able to hide content downloaded from Fox.
So far, the biggest outcome from the leaks has been a six-figure book deal for Muto.
* FBI Photo