Insider Threats

Chris Swagler | May 22nd, 2023


Business owners put a lot of time, effort, and money into growing their operations. The owners work hard to establish a strong company culture, hire the best workers, and implement efficient security measures to defend their companies from external threats. Even though external threats, including ransomware and phishing attacks, are frequent, few companies consider these threats a security priority. Insider threats can cause just as much significant damage to companies as external threats. The annual average cost of an internal data breach is $11.45 million, and 63% of the incidents are resulted from negligence. Here are some practical advice and techniques for companies to protect their business against insider threats so companies can focus on expanding their business without worry.

Understanding Insider Threats

Insider threats are cybersecurity incidents triggered by individuals who have authorized access to companies’ systems or information. These people can be employees, contractors, or trusted vendors, and the threats could be intentional or unintentional:

  • Individuals who intentionally inflict harm to companies are called intentional insider threats. This can be for financial gain, revenge, or ideological.
  • Individuals who inadvertently harm companies are referred to as unintentional insider threats. This can result from negligence, ignorance, or human error.

Different Types of Insider Threats

Based on the actors and their motivations, insider threats can be divided into four categories.

Careless Employees – Employees who are negligent in their responsibilities. They may disregard security policies and procedures, employ weak passwords, or become victims of phishing attacks. Careless employees may unintentionally hurt the companies by disclosing sensitive information or bringing malware into the systems. According to research, most security breaches are caused by careless users’ actions.

Disgruntled Employees – Employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs or companies. They might have been passed over for promotions, raises, or other benefits. Employees dissatisfied with their jobs may intentionally hurt the companies by stealing sensitive information, deleting data, or spreading malware.

Malicious Insiders – Individuals who purposefully harm companies for personal gain or the advantage of a third party. They can be motivated by financial gain, vengeance, or ideological beliefs. Malicious insiders can steal sensitive information, disrupt business operations, or spread malware.

Third-Party Vendors – Individuals or companies have access to companies’ systems or information. Contractors, consultants, and suppliers are examples of third-party vendors. They can cause harm to companies inadvertently by disclosing sensitive information or bringing malware into systems.

Signs of Potential Insider Threats

Insider threats can be challenging to detect since individuals causing harm frequently have authorized access to companies’ systems or information. However, various indicators can point to the presence of these threats, including:

Unusual Network Activities – An increase in data transfers, login, of file access can be the cause. Additionally, it can be an attempt to gain unauthorized access to restricted areas or systems.

Behavior Changes – It’s employees suddenly become withdrawn, aggressive, or hostile. Additionally, it can be when employees are working odd hours or take unapproved time off.

Violating Security Policies – It’s when employees share passwords, use unauthorized software, or gain access to sensitive information unrelated to their employment.

Irregular Finances – It can be employees who suddenly are spending more than they can afford or who have unexplained financial activities.

How Companies Can Protect Their Business Against Insider Threats

Companies protecting their business from insider threats require a comprehensive approach, including policy, technology, and training. Here are some steps detailing how companies can protect their business.

Create a Robust Cybersecurity Culture

Companies developing a security culture must include advocating effective security practices and raising awareness of the risks of insider threats. This could include:

  • Creating a security policy with password management, access control, and data protection guidelines.
  • Background checks can assist in identifying individuals who may be a risk to companies.
  • Providing training and awareness can include security awareness training, phishing simulation, and regular reminders of proper security practices.

Tools and Strategies in Detecting Threats

Insider threats can be identified and prevented using threat detection tools and technologies. These are some examples:

  • User Behavior Analytics – This can include continuously monitoring network devices for irregularities and potential insider threats.
  • Implement Access Management – This can include monitoring and managing who has access to sensitive data within companies.
  • Endpoint Security – It involves securing personal devices, including laptops and mobile phones, to prevent unauthorized network access.

Education In Security Awareness

Even with security measures companies implement, it’s difficult to eliminate the risk of human error. Users remain vulnerable in cybersecurity, so sufficient training and guidance are essential. Employee training in identifying and reporting insider threats can assist in preventing and mitigating the risks of insider threats. This can include:

  • Ensure companies’ security policies are communicated and implemented regularly.
  • Encourage employees to report suspicious behavior, including unusual network activities, behavioral changes, or security policy violations.
  • Employees must learn the difference between strong and weak passwords by receiving frequent security awareness training. Employees also need to be trained to avoid scams and phishing emails.

Insider threats are a significant risk to companies, and implementing a comprehensive strategy is essential in protecting companies. Protecting companies from these threats is a continuous process that requires constant monitoring, updating, and improvement. Companies can protect their business from insider threats and preserve long-term success by implementing the right policies, tools, and training. SpearTip’s cybersecurity professionals are committed to securing companies’ data and protecting their businesses from potential insider cybersecurity threats. Our cybersecurity awareness training educates individuals and organizations about best cybersecurity practices and provides the knowledge and skills to protect their systems and data from cyber threats. Our training covers topics such as password security, phishing scams, social engineering, malware, data protection, and network security. By providing cybersecurity awareness training, companies and their employees can better understand the risks of the cyber landscape and develop impactful cybersecurity practices that reduce the likelihood of cyberattacks.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Centers at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.




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