The saying goes, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” This phrase rings especially true when it comes to the world of cybersecurity. Businesses invest heavily in protecting their systems from external threats but should also include defenses against internal threats.
Understanding what insider threat is and why they happen is vital to stopping them.
An insider threat is a security risk posed by someone within an organization who has authorized access to sensitive information or data. This can include staff members, contractors, or even partners with the company.
Identifying a potential inside threat before they cause damage is essential – but doing so can be difficult, as these malicious actors may have access to seemingly innocent information.
Fortunately, certain traits are typical in an insider threat, which you should look out for to help keep your data safe, including:
Careless insider threats occur due to a lack of awareness or understanding of security protocols. These can include something as simple as leaving a laptop unlocked or failing to follow password requirements for accessing sensitive data.
Negligent insider threats occur due to employees’ negligence in following security protocols. This could include failing to log out of systems after use, sharing passwords with other employees, or downloading unauthorized software onto corporate computers.
Malicious insider threats occur due to intentional malicious intent from an employee or third-party actor. These types of threats can be difficult to detect because they involve someone within the organization who is familiar with its processes and systems and knows how to exploit them for their gain. Examples of malicious insider threats include stealing confidential data, sabotaging systems, or introducing malware into the network.
Coerced insider threats occur when an employee is forced or coerced into acting against their employer’s interests due to external pressures such as blackmail, extortion, or bribery.
Stealing IP Data
Stealing intellectual property (IP) data involves an employee or contractor who accesses and downloads confidential information, such as customer records, financials, trade secrets, or other proprietary information. In some cases, this data may be sold to competitors or used to start a new business.
This threat can significantly damage a company’s reputation and bottom line.
Scammers use their access to sensitive information to commit fraud or steal money from the organization. For example, they may create fake accounts and then use them to transfer funds out of the company’s accounts without authorization.
These threats can have severe consequences for an organization’s finances and reputation.
Sabotage involves an employee using their access to disrupt operations within the organization by damaging systems or data, deleting important files, or disrupting processes in some way.
Sabotage can be used as a form of revenge against a former employer, to gain leverage in negotiations with the company, or simply out of spite for the organization itself.
Studies and research have identified several key traits that identify malicious insiders, so it’s important to be aware of them. Let’s take a look at the common characteristics and behaviors of these individuals to help you better understand the risk that they represent:
People who commit insider threats often prioritize their own needs and desires over the safety and security of the organization they are working for. This can manifest in various ways, such as stealing confidential information or using company resources for personal gain.
Rationalization of Immoral Behavior
Individuals who commit insider threats often attempt to rationalize their immoral behavior by convincing themselves that it’s not wrong or warranted, given the circumstances. For example, they may believe that stealing confidential information is a victimless crime or that they are entitled to use company resources for personal gain because they feel underpaid or unappreciated at work.
Not all insider threats are malicious—some individuals may make mistakes out of ignorance or negligence without any malicious intent. For example, an employee may accidentally share sensitive information with an unauthorized person due to a lack of understanding about the importance of data security protocols.
Ultimately, insider threats to your organization need to be taken seriously. Although external threats undoubtedly exist, it’s important not to forget about risks and vulnerabilities coming from within your corporate walls. You can take steps now to start protecting your business from these threats, such as increasing employee awareness around cybersecurity best practices.