Leak fears could set bosses spying on staff

Bring your Big Brother to work

Bring your Big Brother to work

Big brother bosses will increasingly be tempted to turn to staff surveillance to stop insider leaks before they happen, says the head of a cyber security government body.

Large companies are already exploring ways of monitoring employee behaviour on corporate systems to detect potential wrongdoing, according to Nigel Jones, director of the Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), a government-funded body dedicated to promoting the UK cyber security business.

Businesses are becoming more concerned about data security as the amount of information they handle and retain balloons - leading to a better understanding of of its value, Jones said.

"Once you have a monetary value on this you have to start thinking about who is handling that and how to protect it."

Jones said systems are being developed that could map "normal" employee behaviour on company networks and immediately flag up deviations.

He said: "I can see the temptation to monitor everyone for everything but just how far is it acceptable to go?"

"In general there is going to be more monitoring because more data of value is in the hands of your employees.

"It doesn't mean that you have to have a 'Big Brother' monitoring system and treat employees as threats but you have to look at the risk. We need to look at what is achievable and what is desirable.

Moving away from the "post mortem" approach of analysing an audit trail after a problem has occurred, to proactively monitoring behaviour and nipping trouble in the bud is becoming more important for UK Plc, he added.

"Many organisation can follow an audit trail after the event today, what we have been less good at is the intelligence gathering – seeing that something is going wrong before it happens.

"It is about gathering information on the fly."

Privacy campaigners have condemned greater workplace surveillance.

Simon Davies, director of pressure group Privacy International, said: "There is not any such thing as normal human behaviour and you would have to expect miscarriages of justice and misapprehensions to follow such a move.

"Predicting behaviour has been discussed and discarded in law enforcement because the patterns and outcomes never match the expectaions.

"Also placing employees under comprehensive surveillance would be unlawful."