It may seem surprising but employees and other business insiders are often the ones responsible for cybersecurity incidents. Many incidents are accidental but others are malicious — is your cybersecurity capable of handling insider threats? To help you protect your company’s data and reputation from insider threats, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for identifying your risk level and mitigating your losses.
What are insider threats?
Insider threats originate from within the organization itself. With any individual who has ever had access to confidential or sensitive information, there’s a chance they might share this information with outsiders. It’s not just current employees, executives, or board members you should worry about, either — past personnel may still pose a threat.
Most alarming of all, insider threats are responsible for up to 60% of cyberattacks. This statistic is expected to increase. In the healthcare industry, for example, 56% of cyber incidents result from either negligent or malicious behavior from someone on the inside. This is a very unsettling statistic that underlines the necessity of understanding and managing the insider risk.
Types of insider threats
Put simply, insider threats fall into one of two categories:
Accidental insiders don’t mean to cause your business harm. They don’t realize that a careless or hasty action they’re taking is wrong or that it might put data at risk. Accidental insiders may:
- Take home sensitive information to complete work
- Access data over an unsecured network
- Fall prey to phishing scams and spoof emails
- Release sensitive information, such as bank details or passwords, to social engineering scammers
For example, an employee may be tricked into believing that the scammer on the phone is really an IT professional helping them with a system fault. Then they might divulge privileged information over the phone. Or they may respond to a fraudulent email requesting financial or account data because the sender poses as a familiar colleague or member of management.
Malicious insiders, on the other hand, intend to cause your business harm. They set out to steal information, damage your reputation, or make you vulnerable to competitors. Malicious insider threats include:
- Sharing data with competitors
- Deliberately destroying or losing data
- Stealing confidential data for their own use
- Deliberately infecting the system with threats such as ransomware, malware, and keystroke logging software
Although malicious insiders are less common, they’re no less dangerous — especially in the health sector where 79% of insider threats affect medical records.
Assessing your vulnerability
Companies are losing up to $8.5 million annually because of insider threats, so it’s important to check your security levels today. Here’s what you should be looking at:
- The number of personnel
- The access levels of personnel
- How recently/frequently you have updated your cybersecurity protection
- How reliable your hardware and software applications are
- The possible financial or goodwill damage to your business in a cyberattack
Once you know the answer to these questions, you can take steps to reduce the risk of insider threats crippling your business.
Top tips for reducing insider threats
The procedures for mitigating both accidental and malicious insider threats are the same.
Our top tips include:
- Give contractors, temp workers, and other transient personnel temporary accounts that expire once they complete their work with your business
- Set up a guest Wi-Fi network to limit unauthorized access to central information or communication systems
- Make someone responsible for handling cybersecurity matters, and communicate that anyone can talk to them about any concerns
- Look out for unhappy or disruptive employees
- Back up data regularly and frequently
- Change passwords and login credentials frequently
- Never let non-employees access business hardware or software, including endpoint devices
- Fully train employees on the latest cybersecurity threats, good data handling practices, and scams
- Avoid hiring employees with violent or financial crimes in their past
- Develop comprehensive BYOD policies and update them regularly