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Insider Threats: Businesses Brought Down From Within Due To Lax Cybersecurity

April 2024 by Trevor Cooke, the online privacy expert at EarthWeb

In the realm of cybersecurity, the term "insider threat" refers to the potential risk posed by individuals within an organization who have access to sensitive data or systems and may misuse or compromise this information for malicious purposes. While external threats often dominate discussions surrounding cybersecurity, insider threats present a significant and often underestimated risk to businesses of all sizes. Trevor Cooke, the online privacy expert at EarthWeb, provides strategies to protect your business from insider threats.

The Three Types of Insider Threat

Insider threats can manifest in various forms, each posing unique challenges to cybersecurity efforts:

Malicious Insiders
These individuals intentionally exploit their access privileges to steal sensitive information, commit fraud, or sabotage systems for personal gain or to satisfy a vendetta.

Negligent Insiders
Negligent insiders inadvertently compromise security through careless or negligent actions, such as falling victim to phishing scams, openly sharing passwords, or improperly handling sensitive data.

Compromised Insiders
Compromised insiders, also known as unwitting accomplices, have their credentials or devices compromised by external attackers, who then exploit these assets to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.

Businesses Who Suffered From Insider Threats
The consequences of insider threats can be severe and wide-ranging, often resulting in financial losses, reputational damage, and legal ramifications for affected businesses. Notable examples of businesses harmed by insider threats include:

In 2017, Uber experienced a significant data breach resulting from insider negligence, exposing the personal information of over 57 million users and drivers. The breach, which was concealed by Uber for over a year, led to widespread criticism and legal repercussions for the company.

Also in 2017, Equifax fell victim to a data breach perpetrated by a malicious insider who exploited a vulnerability in the company’s system to gain unauthorized access to sensitive customer data. The breach, which affected approximately 147 million individuals, resulted in a massive data exposure and significant financial losses for Equifax.
Trevor’s Top Tips To Prevent Insider Threats

Restrict Employee’s Access To Sensitive Data
Restrict access to sensitive data and systems based on the principle of least privilege, ensuring that employees only have access to the information that’s strictly necessary for their roles.

Turn Your Employees Into Security Experts
Educate your employees about the importance of cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing phishing attempts, safeguarding passwords, and reporting suspicious activity.
Monitor and Audit All Activity

Implement monitoring and auditing mechanisms to track employee activity and detect anomalous behavior indicative of insider threats, such as unauthorized access or data exfiltration.

Enforce Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Policies
Deploy Data Loss Prevention solutions to prevent the unauthorized transmission of sensitive data and enforce policies governing the handling of confidential information. Many of these solutions automatically block unauthorized access to data or prevent file downloads and transfers, meaning your data is automatically protected.
Establish Incident Response Protocols

Develop comprehensive incident response protocols to quickly identify, contain, and mitigate the impact of insider threats in the event of a security breach.

Trevor says, ‘Insider threats represent a significant and often overlooked risk to businesses, with the potential to cause substantial financial and reputational harm. By implementing proactive security measures, fostering a culture of security awareness, and enlisting the expertise of cybersecurity professionals, organizations can effectively mitigate the risk of insider threats and protect their sensitive assets from malicious actors within their ranks.’

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