The cybersecurity landscape is fairly complex. Not only do businesses have to worry about hackers and other external threats, but insider threats often do the most damage. A recent study reveals that inside threats are responsible for 60% of data breaches. They pose a unique challenge to businesses of all sizes and can be as damaging, if not more so, than external attacks.
Understanding and mitigating these risks is crucial for maintaining the integrity and security of business operations. Here is everything you need to know about insider threats and how to mitigate them.
Understanding Insider Threats
Insider threats arise from individuals with legitimate access to company data, such as employees, contractors, or business associates. The threat occurs when these authorized users either intentionally or accidentally misuse their access rights or when their accounts are taken over by cyber attackers.
While external threats often dominate headlines about cyberattacks, the dangers and costs associated with insider threats are typically higher. The 2023 IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report indicates that breaches caused by internal actors with harmful intent are the most expensive, averaging $4.90 million, 9.5% more than the average data breach cost of $4.45 million.
Additionally, a recent study highlights that external threats generally compromise around 200 million records, while events involving an insider threat have exposed over 1 billion records.
Types of Insider Threats
There are three main types of insider threats:
- Malicious insiders: Employees who intentionally harm the organization. Typically motivated by factors such as financial gain, revenge, or ideological beliefs.
- Negligent insiders: Individuals who unintentionally cause harm due to carelessness or lack of awareness about security protocols.
- Infiltrators: External actors who gain employment within an organization specifically to commit espionage or theft.
Security protocols for protecting against outside threats are fairly straightforward. Businesses set up tracking and logging systems, deploy firewalls, and regularly update their software to patch vulnerabilities.
However, defending against insider threats requires a more nuanced approach. Businesses need a combination of technical solutions, employee education, and organizational policies. Here are the most effective preventative measures against insider threats.
1. Employee Training and Awareness
The modern workforce is fairly tech-savvy, having used computers for some years. However, businesses must understand that this doesn’t mean they know the specific cybersecurity risks and protocols to protect company data. Employee training and awareness programs are essential in bridging this knowledge gap.
Security awareness programs should educate employees about the various forms of insider threats, the significance of following security best practices, and the consequences of security lapses. Phishing simulations and awareness should be a top priority, as this is a very common attack method.
2. Robust Access Control
Users should never have more access than they need to do their job. Security experts have come up with a specific term that deals with this issue, called the principle of least privilege. This concept dictates that users should have the bare minimum level of access necessary to perform their job function. Access rights should be under strict control and regularly updated as positions and roles within the business change.
3. Monitoring and Detection Systems
Monitoring and detection systems are not only there to track down unauthorized behavior. They can also analyze authenticated user behavior to identify anomalies. This could be suspicious logins outside working hours, an unusual number of failed login attempts, or attempts to access prohibited data.
4. Organizational Culture and Employee Engagement
Culture plays a big part in how a business approaches and deals with security issues. A strong security culture has to start from the top. Employees must feel encouraged and appreciated for reporting suspicious activities, and their concerns must be taken seriously. Appreciating your employees also goes a long way in creating a positive work environment, which reduces careless behavior and feelings of disgruntlement.
The Role of Business Password Managers
Employees are only human and will often try to take shortcuts. One of the employees’ most common shortcuts is using short or repeating passwords for their business accounts. Instead of punishing employees, you should consider making their lives easier by investing in a business password manager. These tools streamline password management, making creating and storing complex passwords for critical accounts easy.
3 Advantages of Business Password Managers
- Centralized control: IT admins will have complete control over the password manager and can oversee and manage user access to various systems and applications. Larger businesses will significantly benefit from this simplified method of user access control.
- Enhanced security: The use and safe storage of complex passwords significantly improve the security of business accounts, making unauthorized access far less likely. Password managers also often include features like multi-factor authentication and encrypted password storage, adding additional layers of security.
- Audit trails and reporting: Password managers track user activities related to password access and changes and generate detailed reports about who accesses what and when. This helps businesses meet regulatory standards by showcasing proactive steps to secure sensitive data.
Dealing with insider threats is challenging. It requires a well-rounded strategy that combines solid cybersecurity practices with a proactive security culture. Businesses must stay alert and adopt an all-encompassing approach to reduce insider risks and protect their precious assets. Business password managers will likely play a key role in protecting sensitive accounts and enforcing access controls.