- Amazon said this week it's investigating whether company insiders have been selling proprietary information to buyers in Asia in order to give them a selling advantage.
- Many companies, especially in big technology, banking and telecom, face heavy incentives overseas for employees to sell internal information or access.
- The problem is so common that in some jurisdictions, criminal enterprises post "job ads" looking for specific insiders to aid in targeted schemes.
In Russia, one organization is looking for "long-term, quality employees" from telecommunications providers with the promise of "fair, on-time" pay. Another group promises experienced bankers around $2,000 per month for "one hour of work per day." In Mexico, another ad promises employees from well-known banks high pay with little risk, on the condition of "absolute discretion."
This is today's competitive job market for criminal corporate insiders.
This week, Amazon said it is investigating claims that company insiders across Asia were making money by selling retail secrets. In their case, corporate insiders may have been trading in proprietary information to help Amazon marketplace sellers based in the region get an unfair sales advantage.
But Amazon is far from the only company facing pervasive insider threats, especially in locations in Eastern Europe, Russia, Asia and North Africa. There, employees can sometimes quadruple their salaries or more by working with a criminal enterprise to sabotage their own employer.
According to Ziv Mador, vice president of research for cybersecurity and compliance management company Trustwave, global corporations are facing this problem more requently, as even trusted employees may find themselves on the receiving end of unwanted solicitations to take part in simple, but illegal, "side work."
In monitoring the dark web — parts of the internet accessible only with specific search engines, software or configurations — Mador has observed numerous postings seeking very specific types of employees at big-name employers.
Examples shown here come from Russia and Mexico.
"The salaries listed are quite high, sometimes 10 times what the average salary for an average job at a bank would be," he said. Insider threats proliferate, he said, in areas where salaries may below and law enforcement is lax in looking for employees who might be participating in insider crimes.
"[Criminal recruiters] are looking for many different tasks: increasing withdrawal limits on bank accounts, getting more information about people who they want to target. They are looking for people who work in tax offices, or in other cases, they look for people who can tell them how to log in and how to connect to certain accounts," Mador said.
Mador also said he's observed recent cases of corporate employees posting on these same types of forums, offering their services as corporate insiders.
The continued trend is just one part of the greater intellectual property and privacy concerns of big companies doing business overseas. Tech giants like Apple, Amazon and IBM have been concerned that new competition rules in China -- ostensibly meant to elevate China-based competitors -- give the state and competing Chinese firms too much access to their proprietary secrets and code.
In July, Xiaolang Zhang, a Chinese Apple employee, was arrested at the San Jose airport after telling his colleagues he was moving back to China to be close to his ill mother. The U.S. Department of Justice said that Zhang was carrying "a confidential 25-page document containing detailed schematic drawings of a circuit board designed to be used in the critical infrastructure of a portion of an [Apple] autonomous vehicle." Zhang has pleaded not guilty in the case.
In another case, in 2017, an insider at Dupont was alleged to have stolen valuable trade secrets related to the company's Chemours chemical division. Employee Jerry Jingdong Xu was said to have taken hundreds of millions in chemical trade secrets in order to sell them to Chinese investors, according to the company, along with a co-conspirator. He also has pleaded not guilty.