Different Types of Insider Threats and How to Prevent Them

It doesn't take an expert to understand that cybersecurity threats have increased substantially over the years. Whether its DDoS attacks, ransomware, malware, or otherwise – all pose a significant risk to companies both large and small. It’s evident that businesses need to step up in the war on cybercrime before disaster strikes.

Given that the severity and volume of breaches continue to rise year after year, businesses need to do whatever it takes to keep private data safe. But one thing that companies often fail to recognize is that insider attacks are far more common than most people think. To put things into perspective, the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that insiders caused a staggering 34% of all breaches in 2018.

With these types of attacks becoming more of an issue, here's a guide to the most common insider threats — and what you can do to stop them in their tracks.

What is an insider threat?

An insider threat is a cybersecurity attack or breach that comes from within your own company. Whether it's a current employee, vendor, or even an ex-employee who caused the attack, an insider threat is a risk that is often overlooked by companies. Organizations typically focus more on blocking external attacks, leaving them entirely vulnerable to insider threats.

However, disregarding insider threats could end up being a costly mistake, leaving sensitive information exposed — even if precautionary measures to block outside threats have been taken. With that in mind, the next section will take a closer look at some of the most common insider threats.

Common types of insider threats

Careless Employees

Many instances of cybercrime caused by insiders are accidental. Nevertheless, this poses a significant risk to businesses. For example, an employee might leave a company device unattended, or they might access sensitive company files over an unsecured public WiFi network. In both of these scenarios, the employee's intentions were not malicious. Still, they had the potential to open the organization to a cyber attack.

Second Streamers

This particular insider threat is any instance where an employee misuses private company information for their financial gain or personal benefit. Gartner discovered that a whopping 62% of insider threat cases fall under this particular category. This information proves that businesses need to take immediate action to prevent these types of threats. 

Opportunistic Current and Former Employees

Theft of intellectual property at the hands of current or former employees has become increasingly common in recent years. A high-profile example of this is when a disgruntled employee at Tesla intentionally made changes to software systems, which led to a case of industrial sabotage. Subsequently, the employee became subject to legal action by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Prevention of insider threats

Insider threats have led to a large number of businesses across the globe losing out on tens of thousands over the years. But to make matters even worse, the loss of trust between employers and their employees will definitely be a hard pill to swallow.

In spite of this, it's possible to prevent the misuse of company data by ensuring you have a comprehensive security policy in place. This will ensure that both internal and external cybersecurity threats are contained to an absolute minimum, or even totally eradicated. Either way, there are several successful ways you can prevent insider threats. These preventions include:

  • Ensuring that all employees are aware of the consequences of data misuse.
  • Implementing two-factor authentication and ensuring the use of secure passwords.
  • Keeping critical business infrastructure well away from your employees.
  • Performing background checks on new employees to minimize the risk of data misuse.

Final Thoughts

It’s incredibly important for companies not actively prevent insider threats. Otherwise, it wouldn't be surprising for their business to fall victim at some point.

Insider threats have become a growing cause for concern, and not taking the appropriate precautionary measures could end up with a price to pay – a loss of sensitive information.

Thankfully, it doesn't have to be this way. By following the tips outlined in this article and placing an equal amount of effort into eradicating both internal and external threats, it will ensure that your business can protect itself from different types of risks. Over time, this will place you in a far better position when it comes to keeping private data well away from any prying eyes.

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