5 Ways Your Company Data Is Still Vulnerable To Insider Threats

The consequences of insider threats can be severe, ranging from financial loss to reputational damage. Learn how you can protect your data from these risks.

5 Ways Your Company Data Is Still Vulnerable To “Insider Threats”Most organizations invest heavily in securing their systems against external cyberattacks but often overlook the dangers within their own walls. Insider threats are one of the most significant cybersecurity risks facing organizations today, with a recent survey finding that 60% of businesses experienced at least 1 insider threat attack last year.

Insider threats are risks posed by malicious or negligent employees, contractors, or partners with access to sensitive company data. The consequences of insider threats can be severe, ranging from financial loss to reputational damage.

Let’s explore five ways your company data may be vulnerable to insider threats and provide practical steps you can take to protect your data from these risks.

1. Lack of Employee Awareness

One of the leading causes of insider threats is a lack of employee awareness about data security best practices. When employees are not well-versed in handling sensitive company data, they can easily put the organization at risk.

For example, employees who don’t understand the importance of using strong passwords or keeping their login credentials secret might make it easier for hackers to gain unauthorized access to company systems and data.

To prevent insider threats caused by a lack of employee awareness, you must educate your employees on data security best practices. You can do this through regular training sessions, workshops or online courses covering phishing, password security and the importance of reporting suspicious activity. It’s also a good idea to have clear policies regarding the handling of sensitive data.

Another effective way to increase employee awareness and prevent insider threats is through a culture of security. This means creating a work environment where data security is a top priority, and everyone takes responsibility for safeguarding company data.

You can create a security culture by regularly communicating about data security, highlighting examples of best practices and recognizing employees who go above and beyond to protect company data.

2. Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing and social engineering are two of the most common techniques hackers use to execute insider threats. Phishing involves sending fraudulent emails that appear to come from a legitimate source, such as a colleague or a trusted company. The aim is to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information or downloading malicious software.

Social engineering, on the other hand, involves using psychological manipulation to deceive individuals into disclosing confidential information or performing an action that puts the company at risk. This could be wiring money to a fraudulent account, sharing the company’s security procedures and so on.

Employees can unknowingly assist in executing insider threats through phishing and social engineering by falling for these tactics.

For example, an employee may receive an email that appears to be from a higher-up requesting sensitive information or directing them to click on a malicious link. Without proper training and awareness, the employee may unwittingly comply with the request, resulting in a data breach.

This happened in 2019 when a social engineering attack on Twitter compromised high-profile accounts, which the hackers used to scam people out of cryptocurrency.

Phishing and social engineering attacks can be prevented through employee education and awareness training, including teaching employees how to spot phishing emails and social engineering tactics.

3. Data Sharing Outside the Company

Data sharing outside the company is common in today's interconnected business environment. However, it also presents a significant risk of insider threats. While sharing data with external partners, contractors or vendors, employees might inadvertently expose sensitive data to malicious actors.

Employees might even share sensitive data with external parties intentionally, with the aim of causing harm. For example, a fired salesperson might take customer data to a new company, while a disgruntled employee might leak confidential information to the press.

The best way to avoid the risks caused by data sharing outside the company is to implement strict data access and sharing policies. This includes limiting access to sensitive data to only those employees who need it and implementing encryption and other security measures to protect data during transit and at rest. Conducting regular audits to ensure compliance with data-sharing policies is also advisable.

4. Use of Unauthorized Devices and Software

Using unauthorized devices and software in the workplace can cause significant risks. Unauthorized devices like personal smartphones and USB drives often don’t have the same security features as company-issued devices, making them more susceptible to hacks and malware.

Similarly, unauthorized software downloaded by employees, such as file-sharing programs or unapproved productivity tools, may not be adequately secured and could contain malicious code.

To protect your organization against this risk, you should establish strict IT policies prohibiting the use of personal devices on company networks and require all software to be approved by IT. You should also provide employees with secure, company-issued devices that can be properly monitored.

Additionally, the IT department should regularly scan company networks for unauthorized devices and software and provide employees with ongoing training on the risks associated with using them.

5. Compromised Insiders

Compromised insiders are employees co-opted by outsiders to actively execute a threat against your company. These insiders could be motivated by financial gain, coercion or blackmail.

Protecting your organization against compromised insiders is often challenging because these insiders can bypass security measures and actively try to conceal their actions. However, you can reduce the risk by limiting access to sensitive information and systems without sacrificing productivity using a data security platform.

It is also important to conduct thorough background checks on all employees and contractors and monitor for suspicious behavior. Additionally, consider setting up an anonymous reporting system to allow employees to report any concerns about their colleagues.

Prevent Insider Threats From Becoming Attacks

The threat of insider attacks is a real and constant concern for all organizations. With the growing volume of data that companies generate and store, it is crucial to be aware of the potential risks and take proactive measures to mitigate them.

As we’ve seen, your company's data can be vulnerable to insider threats in several ways, including:

  • Lack of employee awareness on security practices
  • Phishing and social engineering
  • Data sharing outside the company
  • Use of unauthorized devices and software
  • Compromised insiders

However, there are measures you can take, including:

  • Implementing strict security protocols
  • Engaging in regular monitoring and auditing
  • Holding ongoing employee training
  • Running background checks on employees

Remember that a strong security culture and awareness are key to protecting your organization’s assets and reputation. Therefore, invest in a comprehensive insider threat management program and stay ahead of the curve to keep your data safe and secure.

Get the in-demand skills you need with CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+). Download the exam objectives to get started.

Ben Herzberg is chief scientist and vice president of marketing at Satori. He is an experienced tech leader and book author with a background in endpoint security, analytics and application and data security.

Email us at [email protected] for inquiries related to contributed articles, link building and other web content needs.

Read More from the CompTIA Blog

Leave a Comment