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Look around…

The people sat around you could be your company’s biggest data security threat.

We’re used to seeing large-scale attacks (Yahoo, Equifax, WannaCry) in the news. And rightfully so because they are both terrifying and, well, news and those affected need to know.

These attacks usually follow the same storyline: brand corporation vs anonymous cyber villains.

But the focus on cyber attacks from outside parties can cause organisations of all sizes to ignore a major cybersecurity threat: people already inside your organisation.

In fact, insider threats account for nearly 75% of data security breach incidents.

Insider data security threats are dangerous because of how much they vary: from rogue employees bent on personal gain or professional revenge to careless staffers unknowingly getting caught out.

The most dangerous aspect of insider threats is access and activities are coming from trusted systems, and thus will fly below the radar of many standard detection protocols. Particularly when requests come from hijacked higher management logins – not something people are quick to question.

Unfortunately, without proper cybersecurity defences and training, insider threats can come from almost anyone.

Data Security - Insider Threat Motivations

These in-house cyber breach causes can be broken down into two categories: Deliberate and Human Error.

Deliberate Attack

A rogue employee hell-bent on bringing you down from the inside is going to cause far more damage than an outside attacker. It sounds unlikely but it happens more than business owners think.

A fired employee who still has system access. A disgraced business partner who can access company records. Not too crazy, is it? They are difficult to mitigate for because reasons for deliberate attacks can vary wildly.

Disgruntled employees can steal data, leak it online or damage it, as retribution for what they consider an injustice. Maybe they were overlooked for a promotion? Maybe that promised raise isn’t feasible anymore?

Sometimes it’s just about getting a competitive edge. Employees may want to start their own competing business and decide to get ahead by piggybacking on your data. They may steal or alter your client list while still at work.

While virtually any employee can cause a data misuse or leak, two groups that you should give the most attention to are:

  • Privileged Users – Users with admin rights.
  • Terminated Employees – Employees can try to take data with them.

Human Error

But an insider data security breach doesn’t necessarily mean malicious activity – some are likely the result of human error.

A user can inadvertently become compromised by an outsider through methods such as social engineering, phishing and malware.

Other common backdoors for cyber criminals include users failing to apply a patch, using easy-to-guess passwords or leaving physical devices in an unsafe area.

Even well-meaning IT admins can be the downfall of a company. Their complete access to company infrastructure can turn a small mistake into a catastrophe.

Data Security - Admin Weakness

How Do You Counter These Insider Security Risks?

Countering insider threats may seem hard and technical, but it is simpler than you think. All it takes is taking the right approach and arming yourself with the right solutions.

Do the basics correctly, and you instantly make your business more secure:

  • Automatically applying software patches closes that open window before a hacker can use it to access your network. Eliminate the chance of human error.
  • Enforcing strong standards for user identities and passwords means stealing credentials is that much harder.

More Advanced Security Measures For Those Taking Cybersecurity Seriously:

Policies that limit access are important to stop a single affected user (intentionally/accidentally) crippling your entire network. But they need to be used efficiently, otherwise, they stifle productivity.

Humans are creatures of habit. They log on at the same time each day. They use familiar software and access certain files. Using Deep Analytics and AI to uncover deviations in behaviour, makes it much easier to spot indications that systems have been compromised. It’s easy to detect if a user suddenly starts uploading vast amounts of data and they can be shut down before too much damage is caused.

The most effective prevention of insider cyber breaches is educating your team about the threats they face. If your employees know that their actions can affect your bottom line, which in turn can jeopardise their income, they are likely to be more attentive when it comes to upholding your cybersecurity regulations and practices.

Next Steps

If you’re granting every staff member unnecessary internal permissions, lack an auditing system for high-risk people or sensitive data, or aren’t paying close attention to possible behavioural indicators of malicious activity, your business will be considered easy prey for even moderately skilled cybercriminals.