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Petty Crime Or Solid Tradecraft?

Petty Crime Or Solid Tradecraft?
TWC - Fri Feb 24, 2012 @ 12:25PM
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800px-Panneau_Paris_Gare_du_Nord.jpg

Thieves Bolt with Defense Secrets on British and French Military Drone

Executives at France’s Dassault Aviation, a military, regional, and business jet manufacturer, were apparently duped into leaving a briefcase with sensitive, “Defence – Confidential,” papers unattended at Gare du Nord station in Paris, France.

According to reports from the Telegraph, an “unnamed man briefly left his case unattended after his female colleague was ‘hassled’ by a stranger.”[i] Upon his return, the executive realized that his briefcase had been plucked while he had been distracted by the dustup.

People are generally on guard in places of mass transportation like train stations and airports, and commuters especially, are on high alert due to their knowledge of the potential of such crimes. So, was this a run-of-the-mill theft?

According to a source quoted in the Economic Times, it was a premeditated and well-executed lift. The paper reports, “His attention had been purposefully diverted. It was not a random theft.”[ii]

What was in this coveted briefcase? The Telegraph asserts that the contents of the briefcase included top-secret information on a “joint Franco-British drone,”[iii] though local police and an official spokesperson for Dassault downplay the incident, maintaining that the executives were merely targets of opportunity, victims of “petty theft.”[iv]

Inevitably the question becomes, why were executives from a major military contractor so careless and cavalier with sensitive documents? Did the executives adhere to company-directed security protocols? Lastly, why were the executives traveling on mass transportation with hardcopies of the sensitive documents in the first place? If this was not a breach of security protocol, this at the least, was a gaping breach in common sense.

As Chas Maloney, director at Ricoh UK, a document and IT solutions provider, observes in Info Security Magazine“the threats posed by paper-based documentation have been exposed, in this case [via] top secret military files on the UK’s multimillion pound deal to develop drones with France.”[v] Maloney further observed, “This is the latest in a series of high profile incidents of document security breaches that could have been prevented via digitized documentation.”[vi]

Even so, hardcopy documents are not exclusive to going missing. In January of 2011, a Major in the US Army admitted to losing a USB drive with classified information on it in South Korea.[vii] This incident came on the heels of the Pentagon’s outright ban on USB drives for use on classified networks back in December of 2010.[viii]

More details about this incident are sure to be forthcoming. Whether this was a simple crime of opportunity, a well-executed act of espionage, or something more, the issue of safeguarding secrets remains a consequential issue. There are inherent weaknesses in securing both paper-documented and electronic secrets, yet some organizations and businesses are better at it than others. It comes down to not only developing a working, best-practice protocol, but also in implementing that protocol and ensuring that employees practice it with vigor. However, this may never be enough, as those who wish to acquire sensitive information have evolving tradecraft, requiring, in turn, ever-evolving security practices.

Our two cents is to remember - Threat based security is not a spectator sport!

 

 

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Lint Center Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. or any employee thereof. The Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Lint Center Bloggers.

 

About the Authors:

Tim Coleman received his BA from Georgetown, MBA from Barry University, and Master of Public and International Affairs, Security and Intelligence Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and serves as the Center’s Director of Communications.

Brittany Minder received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and she serves as the Lint Center’s Public & External Affairs Associate.

 

References:

1. Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

2. Biddle, Sam “Thieves Snatch Briefcase Full of Secret Drone Documents in France”, Gizmodo, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012 http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2012/02/thieves-snatch-briefcase-full-of-secret-drone-documents-in-france/

3. Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

4. Staff, “Top-secret Anglo-French drone plans stolen”, Info Security Magazine, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/24096/topsecret-anglofrench-drone-plans-stolen/

5. Staff, “USB Device Containing Military Secrets Goes Missing,” InfoSec Island, January 5, 2011, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/10724-USB-Device-Containing-Military-Secrets-Missing.html

6. Levine, Barry “Pentagon Bans Removable Drives on Classified Network”, Newsfactor.com, December 11, 2010, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=76453&full_skip=1

7. Photo Credit: Wikicommons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panneau_Paris_Gare_du_Nord.jpg

 

End Notes:


[i]Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

[ii]Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

[iii]Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

[iv]Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

[v]Staff, “Top-secret Anglo-French drone plans stolen”, Info Security Magazine, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/24096/topsecret-anglofrench-drone-plans-stolen/

[vi]ibid

[vii]Staff, “USB Device Containing Military Secrets Goes Missing,” InfoSec Island, January 5, 2011, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/10724-USB-Device-Containing-Military-Secrets-Missing.html

[viii]Levine, Barry “Pentagon Bans Removable Drives on Classified Network”, Newsfactor.com, December 11, 2010, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=76453&full_skip=1

 

 

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