The Risk of Insider Threats in Cybersecurity

An introduction

With geographical and physical borders no longer being barriers for the expansion of an organization, people other than the traditional employees — remote workers, contractors, vendors — are involved with organizations.

  • Insider threat is a huge cybersecurity issue that a lot of firms are fighting against.
  • Loss of sensitive data, damage to reputation, and downtime are common consequences of insider threats.

Examples of insider threats

When the enemy is on the inside, detection is relatively hard. The motive, ranging from personal gain to revenge, can fuel cyber attacks that can impact the organization heavily. Let’s look at a few examples of insider threats.

  • A former disgruntled employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought down its computer network. Christopher Victor Grupe, who was not known to have a good relationship with his employers, deleted files, changed passwords, and removed administrator-level accounts in the firm’s network.
  • An employee of the oil and gas company EnerVest reset the company’s server after he learned that he was going to be fired. This affected the firm’s business operations for approximately 30 days and cost a lot of money to retrieve data.
  • Hackers infiltrated into Target Corporation’s network after stealing credentials from a third-party vendor. Approximately 41 million customer payment card accounts were said to be affected as a result of this data breach.

Employees often fall victim to targeted phishing attacks and BEC scams causing security compromises on a large scale.

What can organizations do?

Monitoring employee activities is a typical prevention measure organizations follow. But this could result in the violation of employee privacy if not handled properly. Other measures organizations can implement include:

  • Limiting access to sensitive data. Employees can be given access to resources and data on a need-to-know basis.
  • Mandating multi-factor authentication.
  • Implementing a predictive persona analysis tailored to the organization. For example, disgruntled employees based on different indicators can be identified and monitored. But this involves carefully treading on a thin line between preventing insider threats and violating privacy.
  • Educating employees about cyberattacks can help combat the risk associated with negligent employees in insider threats.