Detecting an Insider Threat in Game of Thrones

By Shrivats Modi, August 11, 2017 | SHARE

Is Lord Varys, the enigmatic eunuch, a threat to Daenerys Targaryen’s army? As any Game of Thrones fan knows, Varys is currently an advisor to Daenerys. With the help of his vast network of ‘birds,’ he has promised to win his queen the Game of Thrones. However, when power and authority take precedence in the Seven Kingdoms, promises don’t hold much weight.

Let’s look instead at the evidence of potential insider threat activity. If we tap several data sources and apply them to our Carbon whole-person trustworthiness model, we gain new insights into whether ‘The Spider’ eventually turns against the queen — or in the terminology of Carbon model nodes, [FailsToKeepPromises].

Accordingly, with the help of our Constellation analytics platform and the Carbon model, let’s dig deeper into the background of Lord Varys.

An early indication of Varys’ duplicity comes when he works with Illyrio Mopaitis, the merchant who sold Daenerys in marriage to the Dothraki savage, Khal Drogo. The wily manipulator does his business on the pretext of serving the realm, but he truly does it to gain power and rise in prominence. The model nodes [UsesProfessionalStatusForPersonalGain] and [CommitsSelfDealing] are two that come into play here.

Privileged insights are Varys’ currency, and his skill at procuring them has earned him a reputation for being nearly omniscient. On the other hand, Varys’ history of sharing this data with all sides to stir violence and of manipulation to achieve his ends have likewise gained him a reputation of being distasteful and untrustworthy. In Carbon, this information is applied as evidence to such model nodes as [ProvidesMisleadingInformation], [EnticesOthersForPersonalGain] and [BreachesClientConfidentiality].

Considering that Daenerys’ strategy has been to launch twin attacks on Casterly Rock and King’s Landing, we should find it odd that Euron Greyjoy knew precisely when to assault the Greyjoys and the Martells. Cersei acted like she knew exactly what was happening in Daenerys’ war board; who could the source be, other than Varys? He could very possibly be the one who informed her of these plans [DisclosesProtectedInformation], which eventually resulted in Jaime’s decision to split his forces. If true, then clearly Varys is not [CommittedToOrganization].

Finally, let’s take a moment to relive Melisandre’s recent prophecy aimed at Lord Varys. If Melisandre has seen something to demonstrate how Varys’ meets his demise, then some betrayal on his part appears increasingly likely, as he knows he is [VulnerableToTermination]. The loss of ability to keep conspiring would be far worse to Varys than the possibility of his own mortality.

In a recent third-party evaluation of nearly 50 real-world insider threat use cases, there were five behavioral factors commonly found among the insider threat actors. The image below represents these five commonalities and applies evidence from what we know of Lord Varys to determine the trustworthiness score that we (or Daenerys) should give him.

After connecting all the dots, we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that Varys is a schemer who gains influence by learning secrets and worming his way into people’s trust. Varys has only one loyalty (to himself), and while he appears to need a stable position of authority, he is also prone to playing one side against another for his own gain.

Given the cumulative evidence described above, we will see in the Constellation Dashboard that Varys has emerged as a high-priority insider threat — at very least a candidate for being placed on the Constellation Watchlist. This act in itself could then make matters worse by increasing his paranoia and driving him to preemptively betray his queen, before he himself is [TerminatedUnfavorablyByEmployer].

Shrivats Modi is a marketing intern at Haystax Technology.