Insider Threat Management

Was Darth Vader the Ultimate Insider Threat?

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A short time ago, in a galaxy very, very near, we wrote an article about The Insider Threat that Took Down the Death Star. It discussed how the concept of the cybersecurity “insider threat” could easily apply to the downfall of one of the most well-known moons space stations in all of Star Wars.

But what if there was more to this data exfiltration incident than previously thought? While the cost of that insider threat incident was high, what if there was a greater insider threat at play, right in front of us for over 41 years?

What if Darth Vader was the ultimate insider threat? Let’s investigate.

Warning – the following content contains spoilers for Star Wars films released in and before 2017. Do not continue reading if you do not want to spoil the films for yourself!

Taking a Closer Look at the Prequels: A Timeline

    1. Anakin Gains “Access” to the Force (and the Jedi Council)

      Throughout Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker (later Darth Vader) is passed on by the Jedi Council because they sensed “grave danger” in his training, and he was deemed too old by council standards. By the end of the film, Anakin has managed to gain access to the Force and the potential to become a Jedi, thanks to Obi-Wan Kenobi pushing Yoda to reluctantly agree.

      In some ways, this could be the equivalent of a privileged user (Obi-Wan) giving access to critical systems (Jedi ways / The Force) to an untrusted source, and breaching protocol.


  • Palpatine Orders Clone Army Wide-Scale Launch (Gain Access to the Jedi)

    At the tail-end of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, there is a big battle on the planet of Geonosis, in which Count Dooku’s new battle droid army resides. The battle includes Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Count Dooku, Dooku’s new droid army, the Jedi Order, and – eventually – a clone army. (The Jedi do not want to be in a war, so they vehemently disapprove of building a clone army.)

    Towards the end of the battle, it becomes clear that the Jedi were outmatched. Upon their return to the planet Coruscant, Senator Palpatine (later Darth Sidious, and Emperor Palpatine) oversees the launch of a massive clone trooper force, which the Jedi will eventually command.

    While this doesn’t initially seem like an instance of an insider threat, the Jedi had no idea if the Clone Army’s presence would undermine the integrity of the war (and their safety). As it later turns out, the integrity of the Clone Army was in fact compromised…


  • Palpatine Obtains “Access” to Anakin through the Force

    As Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith progresses, Anakin discovers that his (secret) wife Padme was pregnant. Despite being pleased with the news, Anakin soon is troubled by visions that Padme will die while giving birth – similar to those he also experienced right before his mother died.

    In that situation, he had just met with Palpatine – just like at the start of Episode 3. Was it possible that Palpatine (as Darth Sidious) might have gained access to Anakin through his insider access to the Force, to manipulate him to some end?


  • Palpatine Manipulates Anakin to Make Him Distrust the Jedi

    Shortly after meeting with Padme, Anakin is ordered to spy on Palpatine as his bodyguard, because he is accused of being corrupt. Anakin grows close with Palpatine, allowing himself to be manipulated into distrusting the Jedi.

    In insider threat terms, this could be equated to someone outside of an organisation manipulating an insider into exfiltrating data or causing damage maliciously.


  • Anakin (Vader) Turns on the Jedi

    Speaking of using insider access to act maliciously, Palpatine (now Darth Sidious) persuades Anakin to the dark side, starting with maiming Jedi Mace Windu. (Who Palpatine/Sidious then throws out a window to his death, with Force lightning.) It is at this point that Anakin officially transitions to the name Darth Vader.

    Then, using his inside knowledge of the Jedi, Vader is ordered to turn on the Jedi. Starting with killing…the “younglings” (child Jedi) at the Jedi Temple.


  • Sidious Turns Clones on the Jedi

    Remember that Clone Army that the Jedi didn’t necessarily want, but ended up needing? Well, Sidious orders the clones with the infamous “Order 66” to “Wipe them (the Jedi) out. All of them.”

    Seeing as how the Jedi Order was in command of the clones in combat situations up until this point, the order immediately betrayed the safety of the Jedi. They were surrounded by clones!

    In real world terms, it was as if an insider threat exfiltrated vital customer lists, in order to outright kill a company.


  • Vader “Kills” Padme

    Towards the end of Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin battles Obi-Wan on the planet of Mustafar. Padme, Anakin’s pregnant wife, arrives on the planet to stop him from turning more and more to the dark side. Unfortunately for Padme, Anakin misreads her arrival with Obi-Wan as a betrayal and uses the Force to choke her into unconsciousness.

    The battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin continues, leading to Obi-Wan getting “the high ground” and slicing off Anakin’s legs. Obi-Wan leaves Anakin for dead. Sidious later rescues Anakin, and Anakin becomes the physical embodiment of Vader due to his injuries.

    It is at this time that Padme receives medical attention and is said to have “lost her will-to-live.” She dies shortly after giving birth to the infamous Luke and Leia.

    What is interesting about this situation from an insider threat perspective, is that Sidious tells his former insider threat at the Jedi Council (Anakin/Vader), that Vader killed Padme. But based on the visions that Anakin/Vader experienced before his mother’s death, and now Padme’s death, in close proximity to Sidious contact, was this really the truth?

    Was Sidious using his insider access to Anakin/Vader through the Force to manipulate him? Or did the actions of Anakin/Vader come back to haunt him?


Who Was the Ultimate Insider Threat?

Based on the limited physical evidence, it is difficult to determine who the ultimate insider threat was in the Star Wars prequels. (Though our bet is Jar-Jar Binks.)

Perhaps if we have a tool in place that could have monitored user activity through the Force, we could determine the root-cause of the incidents and behaviours we explored.

We could have monitored all user access to data (or the Force), defined and enforced organisational policies (Jedi Order rules and regulations), leveraged user analytics to detect unknown threats (Jedi outsider Anakin, suspicious intent Palpatine), used insider threat monitoring tools to investigate incidents (Order 66), identified high-risk users (Anakin, Palpatine), generated reports to document incidents, and tracked general data access (Force access/use).

Luckily for you, there is a way to manage insider threat risks at your organisation.

But we have to ask…do you think Darth Vader was the ultimate insider threat? Let us know, by tweeting @Proofpoint, or reaching out on Linkedin!