Visual Representation of malicious insider threat

Protecting Business-Critical Data From Insider Threats

According to a study by CybSafe, human error, whether intentional or unintentional, was the main reason behind 90 percent of data breaches in 2019. To make matters worse, insider-related cybersecurity incidents have increased 47 percent in the last two years.

The new era of technology-driven operations has made information sharing and data access very efficient, but at the same time, it has created a whole new set of challenges. One of the major challenges businesses face in this new era is the rising threat to data security. Against popular opinion, the threat to business data does not always come from external sources or actors.

With that being said, human elements and errors from within an organization are the biggest threats. Data is the lifeline of a business in this digital environment. Any compromise, big or small, has real potential to put everyday operations in jeopardy and bring businesses to a complete halt. Because of this very common scenario, businesses need to be aware of the threats posed by insiders and incorporate the necessary measures to prevent them.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the risks the human factor poses to cybersecurity and how you can overcome them.

Actors and Motivations Behind Insider Threats

An actor refers to a person whose actions either intentionally, or unintentionally put a business’s data at risk. There are two main types of actors behind all insider threat incidents – negligent insiders, who unwittingly act as pawns to external threats, and malicious insiders, who become turn-cloaks for financial gain or revenge.

Negligent Insiders:

These are the most dangerous actors becuase they account for roughly 62 percent of all insider threat incidents. These employees simply come to work every day to do their jobs but occasionally fall for a phishing scam or unintentionally download malware onto their computer. These actors do not have any bad intentions against your company.

How negligent insiders contribute to data breaches:

  • Clicking on phishing links sent by untrusted sources
  • Downloading attachments sent from suspicious sources
  • Browsing malicious or illegitimate websites using work computers
  • Using weak passwords for their devices
  • Sending misdirected emails to unintended recipients

Malicious Insiders:

These are disgruntled employees who, for one reason or another, set out to damage your data security for revenge or financial reasons. While financial gain is the top reason behind most malicious insider actions, this isn’t always the case.

Although malicious insiders only account for less than 10% of overall insider threats, these threats are more likely to have severe consequences due to the credentials and amount of access to compromise your security.

A recent example is of a Chinese national who allegedly stole trade secrets from a US-based petroleum firm. The estimated value of the trade secrets is thought to be about $1 billion. Losses of this magnitude are usually quite severe for any organization, no matter the size.

Best Ways to Prevent Insider Threats and Protect Data

It is estimated that 60 percent of companies go out of business within six months of a major data breach incident. That’s why you must take a proactive approach when it comes to combating insider threats.

When a business is hit with a data security breach, the repercussions span far more than just financially. The organization’s reputation, competitive advantage, intellectual property, and more, usually end up receiving a lot of skepticism following breach due to insider threats.

This will most likely impact their customer base and revenue. On top of that, there are compliance regulations put in place that will impose hefty fines to businesses for allowing such a breach to occur.

How to Detect Insider Threats

There can be a fine line between a potential insider with malicious intent against an organization, and a normal hardworking employee. Therefore, it is best to use both Human Behavior & Digital Signals to help determine a potential insider threat.

Human Behavior

Things to look out for from an employee or stakeholder that can be considered abnormal are, frequently staying at the office after hours, or trying to access a room with privileged files and information.

Digital Signals

While monitoring the company network or individual users, you may witness some abnormal digital signs like downloading a substantial amount of data, high bandwidth consumption, traffic from unknown sources, unauthorized use of personal storage devices, or attempts to access priveledged folders or accounts that are known to be not accessible to said user.

Strategies To Defend Against Insider Threats

  • Insider threat defense plan: The first step to preventing insider threats starts by creating a defense plan specific to insider threats. In order to do so, you need to define what constitutes abnormal behavior for your employees. Then, set up alerts for digital signs that you foresee being an issue in your IT environment. Most important, you need to limit access to critical data and provide unique credentials for those with access to your data.
  • Data backup: Backups are both necessary and essential to protecting your data in the event of an unavoidable loss. With regular backups for your critical data, your business can minimize downtime and get back up and running after a security breach involving an insider. It is important to note that you don’t want to back up every single piece of data within your business. Take the time to classify which data is business-critical and worth protecting.
  • Employee training: When properly trained, employees could be your first line of defense against various cyberthreats. You need to create an organizational-level best practices policy that outlines clear instructions on BYOD policies, passwords, remote working, etc.

Message Data-Tech to Discuss How to Protect your Critical Data

The average cost of insider threats increased by 31 percent between 2017 and 2019 and is estimated to be around $11.45 million. With the cost of insider threats expected to rise year over year, having a trusted and time tested partner by your side to protect your data from all kinds of human threats can go a long way towards securing your business.

Data-Tech is one of the most trusted Managed IT Service Providers in Tampa Bay, with over 25 years of expertise in Data Security and Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, just to name a few. We can be your one-stop-shop to incorporating innovative strategies to protect your data.