Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT)

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Project Details


Work performed to develop an all-purpose cargo aviation insider threat assessment tool arose out of an identified requirement from the Department of Homeland Security for an assessment of insider risks with respect to international air cargo bound for the United States from last points of departure abroad. The threat focus was radiological and nuclear (RN) terrorism, ranging from use of a cargo aircraft’s payload to deliver improvised nuclear devices into U.S. airspace, to attempts to smuggle special nuclear materials or other radiological substances into the U.S.

Primary Findings:

A generalized, modular, and adaptable insider threat assessment tool for the IAC supply chain is feasible. Moreover, this threat assessment approach is suited to evaluating any complex commercial or government operational environment, where insider activity counter to that organization’s goals is considered. Specific to the cargo aviation world, this project showed that insider activities could occur in 503 different combinations across the 13 generic “nodes” of the supply chain, that there are 5,619 unique ways in which IAC employees could subvert existing security and operational functions, and that, among all employee classes, those in supervisory security and managerial positions are the best positioned for insider activities.


This project began with a five-fold methodological study from December 2013 and May 2015. Researchers first conducted an extensive literature review covering air cargo supply chain and operations, aviation security, infiltration into legitimate organizations, corporate espionage and the psychology of betrayal and workplace psychology. Next, the research team interviewed 17 subject matter experts representing the fields mentioned above and engaged with various government and air cargo industry organizations—which involved visits to three domestic operational environments. Researchers then conducted a week-long observational case study at Cargo City Bogotá-El Dorado International Airport, as guests of the Colombian civil aviation authority. After these initial efforts, investigators built an operational process prototype, which provided a generic, spatial model of the air cargo supply chain comprising of an operational layer (where cargo movements are processed), a human activity layer (where security measures and various classes of employees interact to convey cargo items), and a threat layer (which delineates a typology of insiders and provides an adversary threat calculus for the potential insider and the external adversary seeking to illicitly transport RN weapons or materials). Later iterations of the tool, known as the Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT) have been informed by domestic and international field tests at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Liege Airport, Belgium, respectively. The team developed this model over three iterations, building upon the prototype as they proceeded. The final step involved development of an eight-step insider threat assessment procedure, useful for any application between basic possibility space analysis and extremely refined probabilistic analyses of specific air cargo environments.


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