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cyber risk management

The Risk of Insider Threats in Cybersecurity

The way we work has changed forever, with a large part of the workforce operating from remote endpoints and accessing an organization’s IT infrastructure from different geographical locations. Vendors and contractors external to an organization, often access its systems remotely as well. This raises the risk of bad actors with internal access that is hard to detect since motivations can vary from a disgruntled attitude to personal monetary gain. Insider threats can also be wholly unmotivated and a product of negligence from an employee. These types of threats represent more than two-thirds of breaches, even with prevention solutions in place. Corporate data and IT assets face a high level of vulnerability when it comes to insider threats, and most security strategies aren’t doing much to cover this area of risk. These invisible threats can lead to data loss, identity theft, and cause an organization to have massive monetary damages.

Common vulnerabilities

Breaches stemming from insider threats are linked to either
bad faith or ignorance throughout several moments during the access, use, or
transfer of data. Here are a few examples of common vulnerabilities that can
lead to breaches:

  • Misuse of passwords: weak or generic
    passwords, sharing of passwords, or absence of password protection all increase
    the risk of insider threat
  • Phishing: unsavvy employees can easily
    and unintentionally transfer data to malicious actors through fake websites and
    malware-ridden ads. Employee education on how to recognize phishing must be
    part of an organization’s overall security strategy.
  • Decentralized storage of sensitive data:
    having your sensitive data stored across many devices without proper asset
    visibility can lead to numerous users with unrestricted access on unsecured devices.
    Centralizing data storage with managed security services helps you keep control
    of these vulnerabilities and mitigate risk.
  • Ignored security practices: security
    needs to become part of your organization’s corporate culture. Educating your
    workforce and enforcing robust security policies and procedures are the best
    way to avoid insider threats.
  • Inadequate event monitoring: monitoring,
    analyzing, and responding to security events provides visibility and
    understanding of vulnerabilities, helping the organization detect and
    neutralize threats before they can cause any damage.

The Root-Cause

Bad actors and employee negligence are certainly the main
avenues for insider threats, but the root of the problem goes deeper. Inadequate
security practices, policies, and standards are often the biggest reason why
insider threats turn into breaches, loss of data, and the disastrous
consequences of these events. Organizations must incorporate a robust security
strategy across their entire organization that addresses governance, risk, and
compliance, with a significant focus on endpoint security. These approaches
need to address vulnerabilities, limit access to sensitive data, and prevent
insider threats, while also respecting the employee’s right to privacy.   

Controlling Risk

Taking measures to control and mitigate risk follows the
proper assessment and acknowledgement of vulnerabilities. Here are some
measures that need to feature in your security and risk management strategy:

  • Limiting access: access to sensitive data
    and corporate resources should be heavily controlled and handled on a
    need-to-know basis. Regular privilege assessments and modifications should be
    performed to ensure no one has access who shouldn’t have it. The less privileged
    users, the lesser chance of malicious exploitation of access.
  • Gaining visibility: having a centralized security
    solution in place that gives an organization analytical data on employee
    behavior, security events, access controls, and impending threats will help
    detect malicious behavior before it can develop into an attack. A solution like
    this must go hand-in-hand with robust security policies, procedures, and
    practices.
  • Employee education: ignorance,
    negligence, and lack of knowledge on cyber risk is the leading cause of insider
    threats causing damage. Educating employees, vendors, and partners on an
    organization’s security policies, procedures, and practices will improve risk
    awareness and promote appropriate behavior and handling of data.
  • Multi-factor authentication: having two
    or more authentication factors for access as well as enforcing unique and
    strong passwords makes it more difficult for phishers, hackers, and other bad
    actors to take advantage of unsuspecting employees.

Above all, security needs to be ingrained in organizational
culture. It needs to become a part of daily work life, and every member of the
organization must participate. Enforcing security and protecting data is a
combined effort of strategy, people, and technology.