HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy


Threats from insiders—individuals with authorized access to protected locations, materials, and information—represent the most serious threats to nuclear organizations around the world. Insider threats are rare but can be devastating. Nearly all the cases of nuclear theft in which the circumstances of the theft are known were perpetrated either by insiders or with the help of insiders, as were nearly all the known cases of sabotage of nuclear facilities. Insiders pose substantial threats because they have access inside many of the layers of an organization’s security; they may understand the security system and its vulnerabilities; they are able to plan, collect intelligence from inside the facility, and recruit for months at a time; and they are known and trusted individuals, which often makes the organization slow to detect and react to possible indicators of a threat. The chapter describes several illustrative cases of devastating insider threats, outlines the categories of insider actions and motivations, and describes some of the organizational challenges of mitigating the threat. The chapter also highlights how nuclear organizations must find ways to protect against insider threats while building internal trust and cooperation needed for their success. It discusses some of the recent steps the international community has taken to address the insider issue, as well as the good practices organizations are already implementing.


Bunn, Matthew. "Insider Threats to Nuclear Security." The Oxford Handbook of Nuclear Security. Ed. Christopher Hobbs, Sarah Tzinieris, and Sukesh K. Aghara. Oxford University Press, 2023, C9S1–C9N57.