Insider threats are a growing concern for organizations of all sizes and industries. An insider threat is a security risk from within an organization — such as an employee, contractor or business partner — who has authorized access to sensitive information or resources.
On average, incidents involving insider threats cost businesses $6.6 million yearly. Insider dangers are also caused by more than just reckless employees — according to more organizations, credential theft will become a bigger problem in the coming years. To make matters worse, containing an insider threat now takes approximately two and a half months.
While some of the threats could connect to the global pandemic and the transition to remote work, researchers uncovered other variables contributing to these statistics. Overall, insider threat occurrences grew by 47% over the past five years.
To develop a proactive strategy to minimize these risks and the cost and impact of events when they occur, organizations must stay informed on insider threat trends as the cybersecurity landscape gets more complicated.
Why Insider Threats Are Becoming Common
Insider threats can be intentional or unintentional and cause significant damage to an organization’s reputation, financial stability and intellectual property. Below are several reasons why insider threats have been on the rise.
1. Increasing Dependence on Technology
With the growing use of technology and the internet in business operations, organizations have become more vulnerable to insider threats. As companies store more data digitally, it has become easier for insiders to access, steal or misuse sensitive information. Insiders can also use technology to cover their tracks, making it harder for organizations to detect and prevent threats.
2. Remote Work and the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has forced many businesses to adopt remote work policies, which has increased the risk of insider threats. Remote work makes it more challenging for companies to monitor employee activity and behavior, making it easier for insiders to access confidential information or engage in malicious activities. Moreover, the stress and uncertainty caused by the pandemic may have also contributed to an increase in insider threats.
3. Insider Threats Underestimation
Businesses often focus their security efforts on external threats such as cybercrimes and may underestimate the risk posed by insiders. This can make it easier for insiders to engage in malicious activities without detection, especially if they have authorized permission to access the company’s private information and resources. Organizations may not have tools or procedures to perceive a security breach quickly, making it easier for insiders to carry out crimes undetected.
4. Disgruntled Employees
Employees who are unhappy with their job or employers are more likely to engage in insider threats. These workers may steal information, damage company assets, or engage in other malicious activities as revenge or to benefit a competitor. To exacerbate the issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused job insecurity and financial stress for many people, leading to an abrupt increase in reports of employee burnout. With the sudden growth of a large segment of employees who feel overworked and underappreciated, it isn’t surprising that the risk of insider threats continues to increase.
5. Lack of Awareness and Training
Insider threats may also arise from unintentional actions by employees who are unaware of security risks or do not understand company policies and procedures. For example, this can happen when employees inadvertently share sensitive information or fall victim to phishing scams. Organizations must provide regular security awareness training to their employees to prevent security breaches.
Tips for Defending Against Insider Threats
Defending against insider threats is crucial for any business that must protect sensitive information. Here are some tips for safeguarding your company against insider threats:
- Implement strong access controls: You must limit access to confidential information to only those who need it to perform their duties. You should also use multi-factor authentication and regularly review access logs to detect and prevent unauthorized access.
- Monitor employee behavior: Organizations can monitor network activity, email communications and file transfers to detect unusual or suspicious behavior.
- Use data loss prevention (DLP) technology: DLP technology can identify and prevent the unauthorized transfer or sharing of sensitive information, even if it’s accidental.
- Conduct background checks and ongoing screening: Companies can check criminal records, credit history and references before hiring, and regularly review and update worker records to detect any changes that may indicate risks.
- Have a clear incident response: Organizations can develop procedures for detecting and investigating potential insider threats and set a clear plan for contacting and mitigating the impact of an incident.
- Encourage a positive workplace culture: As an employer looking to prevent insider threat risks, you must provide employees with the opportunities to give feedback and address grievances while recognizing and rewarding good behavior.
Prevent Insider Threats in Your Organization
Insider threats are a growing concern for businesses and the trend is likely to continue. Employers need to be aware of the risks posed by insiders and take proactive steps to detect and prevent threats. This includes implementing strong access controls, conducting background checks and providing regular security awareness training. Companies can reduce insider threat risks and protect their sensitive information using these preventive measures.