MERIT Interactive

An organization's risk due to insider cyber attacks depends on the complex interaction of the organization's business policies and procedures, organizational culture, and technology over time. In this project, we are developing a stand-alone tool that can be used for widespread training for managers on insider threat risk mitigation.

We are using state-of-the-art multimedia technologies to develop a training simulator (which we call MERIT InterActive, or MERITIA) that immerses users in a realistic business setting from which they make decisions regarding how to prevent, detect, and respond to insider actions and see the impacts of their decisions in terms of key performance metrics. To succeed in the simulation, the user must effectively balance.

  • Requirements to meet project deadlines
  • Good management practices, such as spending "face time" with employees
  • Working with IT to implement proactive IT practices and policies
  • Working with management, human resources, and the IT departments to respond to unplanned emergencies, such as network crashes or disgruntled employees

If the above requirements are not balanced appropriately, the user "loses" by being the victim of an insider attack or being fired for poor performance. However, there are different degrees of "losing." The damages and recovery efforts required as a result of their actions throughout the simulation can vary significantly. The interface is being designed to encourage users to run the simulation multiple times; they receive coaching on their performance at key checkpoints so that they learn from their mistakes and can improve their performance in the safety of a simulation environment.


In collaboration with the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Defense, the CERT Insider Threat team has gathered and analyzed over 200 insider threat cases, including cases of IT sabotage, fraud, theft of sensitive or proprietary information, and espionage. The focus of the CERT team has been to approach all insider threat projects by building collaborative teams composed of both technical and psychological experts. MERITIA is based on a System Dynamics simulation model that was developed during a series of group modeling sessions with representatives from the DoD, industry, and academia.

Broader Implications

Broad application of MERITIA will help organizations across the U.S. and abroad to significantly reduce their risk and losses due to insider attacks. Application of MERITIA to better protect organizations that control U.S. critical infrastructures will benefit national security and the general public as a whole.

Technical Approach

We are working jointly with a team at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) to develop a compelling multimedia training simulator. We are using an evolutionary prototyping development methodology that involves an iterative process of prototyping and requirements refinement. The current focus of the effort is on insider IT sabotage, but the engine is being designed to accommodate the ability to seamlessly "plug and play" additional scenarios.


We developed a fictional case scenario that is representative of a preponderance of actual cases of insider IT sabotage that we have analyzed. The ETC team is on the second version of a user interface design that uses state-of-the-art graphics, video, and audio technologies to bring the scenario to life. The evolving simulator based on the scenario and user interface provides a coherent, well-grounded, and engaging environment for teaching the primary lessons for mitigating the risk of insider IT sabotage.

User Benefits

MERITIA will help managers, information technology, and human resources personnel better understand insider threat risks and the effects of decisions on the promotion or mitigation of that risk. The technology will empower organizations to develop comprehensive, efficient, and justifiable defenses to insider threats along with the organizational understanding and support needed to maintain a strong security posture over time.

Fund Our Research

We are currently seeking funding for development of a production version of the MERITIA training simulator.

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