What Are Insider Cybersecurity Threats?

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These days, there’s more to worry about than attacks from the outside world. As if government-backed ransomware teams with geopolitical agendas, and profit-driven hacker organizations weren’t bad enough, companies must also worry about insider cybersecurity threats.

In fact, in some cases, the threats posed by insiders present the greatest risks.

In particular, three worrisome statistics from a recent Ponemon Institute report shows just how dangerous insider cybersecurity threats can be.

The study found that in the course of the last two years:

  • The average cost of correcting insider threats rose by 34%

  • The number of days it takes to contain insider attacks rose from 77 to 85

  • The number of insider attacks increased by 44%

But, are all of these attacks done purposefully? And, what prevention methods can you take?

Let’s take a look at what makes these threats so dangerous, and what you can do to stop them.

What is an Insider Cybersecurity Threat?

The United States Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) defines an insider cybersecurity threat as “the potential for an insider to use their authorized access or understanding of an organization to harm that organization.”

Through deliberate or accidental actions, an insider can damage your business in multiple ways, which include:

  • Engaging in espionage in an attempt to steal proprietary information or trade secrets;
  • Performing unauthorized information disclosure;
  • Participation in organized criminal activities;
  • The intentional or unintentional degradation of an organization’s resources or capabilities.
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Intentional vs. Unintentional Threats

Insider threats fall into two basic categories: unintentional and intentional.

Though these two types of threats are very different, you should consider all insider threats serious, and each can cause substantial damage.

Now, let’s examine the two a bit further.

Unintentional Insider Threats

Unintentional insider threats can be very damaging, and typically caused by employees who don’t realize the ramifications of their actions.

These threats can be further categorized based on the reason they occur.

  • Negligence – Carelessness or negligence is the first category of unintentional threats.

    This typically results when individuals know the proper security policies, but choose to ignore them.

    Examples include ignoring instructions to install security patches, sharing credentials, or allowing a coworker to enter a restricted area without swiping their ID card.

Sure, these acts might seem harmless at the time, but consider if 100 employees do it 100 times… Suddenly, an incident becomes more of a “When” than a “What if”.

  • Accidental – Insider cybersecurity threats can also result from innocent mistakes.

    Examples include mistyping an email address and sending confidential information to the wrong person, or mistakenly clicking a link in a phishing email that results in a malware attack.

    Even physical accidents can lead to problems. For instance, dropping a USB data drive or SD card full of company information could lead to it falling into the wrong hands.

By definition, unintentional insider cybersecurity threats aren’t performed with malice in mind. Generally, they occur because employees don’t take security as seriously as you’d like, or because they’ve not received proper training.

The key to minimizing this threat remains education and training, and emphasizing the individual’s role in protecting key resources.

Intentional Insider Threats

Intentional insider threats are perpetrated by malicious individuals seeking personal gain or to cause deliberate harm to an organization.

They attempt to steal valuable data to sell to competitors, or leak information to damage your company’s reputation.

Unfortunately, the foundation of many insider cybersecurity threats typically involves a real or imagined oversight by management. For example, it may occur if someone felt slighted after repeatedly being passed over for promotions, or given “inferior” work assignments.

Thus, training and education becomes an ineffective tool to counter the threat.

Intentional threats also include calculated attempts to sabotage an IT environment for a third party, often driven by financial motives.

A simple example of this would be if your employee were to sell a list of your most valuable clients to a competitor’s sales team.

Minimizing Insider Cybersecurity Threats

Although insider threats are hard to stop completely, you can certainly minimize their likelihood.

First, make use of background checks on employees – particularly those working with critical data. Second, utilize the practice of “least privilege”, to minimize any damage in the event something like credential theft should occur.

Make use of multi-factor authentication, and be sure to implement regular cybersecurity training.

Finally, if you’re still uncertain about the security of your business, consider reaching out for help.

Blue Bastion, with the help of our networking division, Ideal Integrations, can help answer any questions you may have & provide assistance to any size business.

We can help you minimize the risk of insider cybersecurity threats to your computing environment using several complementary techniques. Our managed detection and response offering delivers 24/7 monitoring of your infrastructure, data, and applications.

We can identify unauthorized attempts at lateral movement through your environment, which is often an indicator of malicious insider activity.

Our cybersecurity protection supports on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments.

Simply contact us today at 412-349-6680, or fill out the form below for a no-obligation consultation. We can customize a solution to fit your needs and budget, and take the worry out of your cybersecurity needs.

And, as always, stay vigilant!

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