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Outsourcing your own job much more common than first thought

Verizon finds canny computer worker's business plan

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RSA 2013 Computer programmers outsourcing their own jobs and pocketing the profit from salary differentials overseas is much more common than first thought.

Last month, Verizon reported that an investigation into a client had revealed that the unnamed company's star programmer, a chap dubbed Bob, had outsourced his job to a Chinese firm that charged him a third of his salary, while he spent time in the office surfing Reddit and looking at cat photos. He was only caught when his employers checked his usage logs.

"When the story went out we got a bunch of phone calls with companies asking, 'Are you talking about our situation?'" Bryan Sartin, director of investigative response on Verizon's RISK team told The Register.

"It turns out this seems to be something of a trend and lots of people are doing it. It's especially common with contract workers and freelancers who sign up for jobs and then farm out that work in parts of the world where coders are cheap."

The initial case that sparked the interest was unusual, he said, in that the person involved was a full-time employee, but there have now been many cases of freelancers shipping off their work. On a purely capitalistic front it's a great idea for the developer, but employers are less than impressed.

In the case of Bob – and other examples Verizon has found – two-factor authentication tokens and passwords were sent to offshore coders to enable them to access corporate systems. While there's little evidence that the third-party coders have exploited this for hacking profit, the danger is very real, Sartin said, and companies need to be on their guard.

"Our data shows that in 74 per cent of network intrusions, the initial access point is a remote worker's link," he said. "In these specific cases there doesn’t have seen to be a problem, but if the hacker's purpose is espionage rather than profit then they're going to keep a low profile."

The easiest way to catch these people out is to check access logs for the location of the worker, Sartin explained. If you've hired a coder in California, it's a dead giveaway if they are logging in from China. ®

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