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Turnabout: Verizon’s RISK Security Team Ferrets Out Employee Outsourcing His Own Job to China

Phillip Dampier January 17, 2013 Consumer News, Verizon 2 Comments
Downtown Shenyang

Downtown Shenyang

When corporate executives discover the merits of outsourcing jobs to overseas workers in China or India, that wins them a large bonus for improved efficiency and successful cost-cutting. When an enterprising employee does the same thing, that is a heinous security risk.

Verizon’s RISK Team, which sells enterprise-level security services to large companies, discovered a “severe” security threat when it went to work for a “critical U.S. infrastructure company” (which goes unnamed) that found some unusual activity in its private network logs.

It all started when the company began shifting employees away from in-office work towards cheaper telecommuting. To allow this to happen, a secure virtual private network was established allowing developers to manage their work from home.

When the company began reviewing the network logs, it discovered a curious workday connection being established almost daily originating from Shenyang, China. The company hired Verizon’s RISK Team to consider the implications.

Company security personnel were initially concerned the Chinese had infiltrated their private network even though network access required the use of a rotating token RSA key fob. Even harder to understand, security officials watched the employee working at his office desk at the same time.

Was it a Chinese intelligence agency break-in? Malware? Hackers?

No, it turned out the employee, who Verizon calls “Bob,” had simply outsourced his job responsibilities to a contracting firm in China.

Company officials authorized some infiltration of their own, asking Verizon to review a forensic image quietly obtained from Bob’s workstation. Verizon security officials were surprised when they found hundreds of .PDF invoices sent from the third party contractor-developer… in Shenyang, China. Verizon’s RISK blog explains further:

verizon businessAs it turns out, Bob had simply outsourced his own job to a Chinese consulting firm. Bob spent less than one fifth of his six-figure salary for a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Authentication was no problem, he physically FedEx’d his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average 9 to 5 work day. Investigators checked his web browsing history, and that told the whole story.

A typical ‘work day’ for Bob looked like this:

  • 9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
  • 11:30 a.m. – Take lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.
  • 2:00 – ish p.m Facebook updates – LinkedIn
  • 4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.
  • 5:00 p.m. – Go home

Evidence even suggested he had the same scam going across multiple companies in the area. All told, it looked like he earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, and only had to pay the Chinese consulting firm about fifty grand annually. The best part? Investigators had the opportunity to read through his performance reviews while working alongside HR. For the last several years in a row he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building.

Currently there are 2 comments on this Article:

  1. ben says:

    I can’t believe he didn’t realize they would see this. He could have easily set up a proxy at his house (with a few hundred grand a year, he could have had a team come in and build an amazing one if he didn’t have the knowledge to set up a Linux server) and the Chinese IP would never have appeared in the logs. What a crafty moron.

  2. Scott says:

    Funny, if there company wasn’t so butthurt about an employee outsourcing his own job before they outsourced him, they probably would have promoted him to management for figuring out how to source quality Chinese programming labor at a fifth of his salary, then had him scale and manage them to work on more projects.

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