China theft of US agriculture sector trade secrets prompts government guidance

China and other countries have used insiders to steal intellectual property from agricultural research. The government has responded with guidance for identifying insider threats.


By Christopher Burgess, CSO

Sep 2, 2021


If you didn’t think the agriculture and food sector is of national security significance, then the issuance of the Insider Risk Mitigation Guide by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) in conjunction with the Department of Defense’s Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE) should be the equivalent of the bat-signal shining over Gotham. The guide, quietly published in late July, is in essence a primer on how to create an insider risk/insider threat program.


NCSC and CDSE insider threat program guidance


The 11-page publication touches on four areas:


1.    Understanding insider risks

2.    Establishing an insider risk program

3.    Insider risk management strategy

4.    Insider risk resources


It highlights how the individual within the agriculture and food sector plays a “significant role in national security by protecting public health and safety, the nation, and its economy from contamination, economic espionage, food adulteration and terrorism.”


CISOs who are unfamiliar with the concept will find the guide interesting for its basic table-stakes presentation, suitable for culling tidbits to educate the rank-and-file cadre within their entity’s footprint. Especially noteworthy is the section on instituting user activity monitoring, which projects the basic concepts. Those in cybersecurity developing tools that focus on data leakage or insider threat mitigation will find the guidance a generation behind the cybersecurity industry as the emphasis is on employee deviations from norms.


The guidance is spot-on in other areas:


·         Identify what assets are the critical assets.

·         Consider the risk management process as dynamic, not one and done.

·         Have a response in place for when an insider threat becomes a reality.


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