Although the technology-driven era we live in has made information sharing and data access very efficient, it has also brought forth a new set of challenges. One of the major challenges businesses face in this day and age is the rising threat to data security. However, the threat to business data does not always come from external actors. 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.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that the biggest threat to business-critical data comes from human elements inside an organization. Since data is the lifeline of most businesses in this digital environment, any compromise can jeopardize operations and bring businesses to a complete halt. To avoid this, 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
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 turncloaks for financial gain or revenge.
Negligent Insiders – These are your regular employees who simply do their jobs but occasionally fall victim to a scam orchestrated by a cybercriminal. These actors do not have any bad intentions against your company. However, these actors are also the most dangerous since they account for about 62 percent of all insider threat incidents.
Negligent insiders contribute to data security breaches by:
- 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 wreak havoc on your data security for financial gain or revenge. While financial gain is the top reason behind most malicious insider actions, it isn’t always the case. Despite being rare in occurrence, these threats often have much more severe consequences since the actors have full access and credentials to compromise your security. For instance, a Chinese national allegedly stole trade secrets from a US-based petroleum firm, with the value of these secrets estimated to be about $1 billion. Losses of this magnitude are usually quite severe for any organization, irrespective of its size.
Best Ways to Prevent Insider Threats and Protect Data
When a business falls victim to a data security breach, it faces more than just financial repercussions. The organization’s reputation, competitive advantage, intellectual property, etc., often come under fire following an insider threat incident. Additionally, compliance regulations impose hefty fines on businesses for allowing such a breach to occur. 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.
Detecting Insider Threats
There are certain factors that can help you identify insider threats before you experience a full-blown breach:
- Human behavior: A potential insider with malicious intent against an organization will exhibit abnormal behavior. For instance, an employee trying to access privileged information and frequently staying late after office hours could be abnormal behavior to watch out for.
- Digital signs: Before a major breach due to insider threats, 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, etc.
Defense Strategies Against Insider Threats
There are a few strategies that you can implement throughout your organization to minimize the possibility of insider threats.
- Insider threat defense plan: Your strategies against insider threats start by creating a defense plan specific to insider threats. You need to define what constitutes abnormal behavior in your employees and set up alerts for digital signs in your IT environment. Most importantly, you need to limit access to critical data and provide unique credentials for those with access to your data.
- Data backup: Backups are essential to protect your data in case of an unavoidable loss. With regular backups for your critical data, your business can get back up and running after a security breach involving an insider. Before you back up your data, you need to classify what data is worth protecting and create a strategy accordingly.
- Employee training: When properly trained, employees could be your first line of defense against various cyber threats. You need to create an organizational-level best practices policy that outlines clear instructions on BYOD policies, passwords, remote working, etc.
Reach Out to Us 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 over the years, having a trusted partner by your side to protect your data from all kinds of human threats can go a long way towards securing your business.
With our years of expertise in data security and storage, we can help you incorporate innovative strategies to protect your data. Give us a call now!
- Ponemon 2020 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report