Insider Threat – a potential security loophole that has been the concern of most cybersecurity experts and security architects. While experts have acknowledged this threat for a long time, corporations on the other hand, were not very enthusiastic about this acknowledgment until recently. Only now are they beginning to realize that a large part of the security vulnerabilities in their organization is due to malicious or, to say the least, ‘irresponsible behavior’ of their employees.
Numbers and data claim a 47% increase in the frequency of security breach events involving insider threats. Moreover, according to the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, insiders are responsible for 22% of all the security breach incidents to an organization. Why is this important? Because such an event causes organizations massive monetary losses as well as exposes crucial and sensitive information about their users and clients.
Often organizations focus their efforts on outside threats while rarely giving a thought to threats originating from within the premises. Let’s see together what insider threats are and how to defend yourself?
Insider to any company is its employees, contractors, and any person who has access to the company’s sensitive servers, data, and systems. These all can be viewed as an insider threat, as each person’s access is a point of vulnerability. Insider threat arises when such a person with authorized access abuses it and negatively impacts critical information, system or causes a data breach or leak from within the organization. It doesn’t have to be an employee only – any third-party vendor, contractor, and partner can pose a threat.
Employees generally have administrative access to the company’s database. That doesn’t qualify them as a threat. One may argue that it’s necessary for them to do their job. However, it’s imperative to understand that privileged access is itself a risk. Each set of credentials represents a new point of vulnerability. Employees could unwittingly share their login credentials or divulge crucial information.
Moreover, they could also willingly exploit the company’s resources for unlawful gains. Now insider threats constitute the majority of cyberattacks. However, not all offenses are intentional. The majority of cybersecurity incidents due to insider threats are, in fact, accidental. This is what makes the insider threat so risky.
As we stated earlier, not all insider threats are intentional; therefore, these security incidents can be summarized in two categories;
As the name suggests, a malicious insider executes a security breach knowingly and unwittingly. Such a person could exfiltrate sensitive data and other assets. The motive for the insider could be financial gains or to gain a competitive edge for a new venture.
Although there is no intent to steal or reveal a company’s data in such a case, negligent insider threats pose the most risk of security incidents. Negligent insiders are average employees simply doing their job. But due to their neglect or error, they sometimes reveal information that can be used to carry out cyberattacks.
Insider threats are notoriously hard to detect. Here are two of the best strategy to prevent insider threats;
Mapping all the company’s data, including all the entry and exit points, and checking all the employees, third-party vendors, and contractors who have access to the company’s data could mitigate the risk of insider threats.
Making your employees familiar with the threat landscape and how even slight negligence on their part could be employed for an extensive security attack will prepare them to be more careful. Similarly, security awareness could foster a sense of responsibility while handling the sensitive data of the company.