The commercial landscape is increasingly reliant upon the tools of our digital age. While technology certainly offers advantages, it also brings with it some significant cybersecurity risks. No business is completely immune to risks, of course. This is why it is so important to adopt robust and agile hazard management practices.

Yet, when a lot of companies start to build their cybersecurity protocols, they tend to make the mistake of focusing on largely external threats. Hackers behind computer screens thousands of miles away aren’t the most likely cause of disruption. One recent report found that 60% of data breaches are the result of insider threats. Alongside mitigating issues caused by those outside your organization, you need to bolster the protections within.

We’re going to dig a little deeper into this issue. How can you identify and prevent insider threats within your organization?

Understand the Threats

Your first step in identifying insider threats is to gain a better understanding of them. Too many companies simply assume insider threats simply refer to internal theft. This certainly isn’t the case and can lead you to miss important points of vulnerability within your organization.

Some key types of insider threats include the following.

Malicious Threats

The category of insider threats most businesses will already be familiar with is malicious threats. These are intentional actions taken by those within your organization, most often to gain a financial advantage or cause disruption. This may include direct theft of finances and resources. It can include industrial espionage, in which intellectual property or business data is passed on to competitors. In some cases, you may be a victim of cybercrime from disgruntled staff members wishing to cause the company damage as a form of revenge or punishment. There is also a subcategory of collusive threats, which are malicious threats in which external cybercriminals are collaborating with someone inside the organization.

Unintentional Threats

Some of the most disruptive threats to your business are not necessarily malicious in nature. Employees and others within the organization may make mistakes that cause your company to face damage or disaster. Usually, these threats take a couple of different forms. There are purely accidental issues, such as inadvertently giving higher network access to a third party than intended or clicking on a link infected with ransomware. But there can also be threats caused by negligence. These may not be malicious in nature, but they are caused by careless or reckless actions. This could include failing to set a strong password on a device, thereby giving malicious outsiders access to company data.

Third-party Threats

Internal threats don’t only come from your employees. Third parties such as contractors, suppliers, vendors, and visitors may present insider threats. Again, these may be malicious or unintentional in nature. In either case, their need to access your network as part of interacting with your business presents a risk.

Provide Clarity

Once you understand the types of insider threats your business may face, it’s important to provide your stakeholders with clarity on these. Whether the threats are malicious or unintentional in nature, it helps to set expectations. You can be most effective here through your documentation and education efforts.

This begins with promoting strong data security in the workplace by addressing both methods and motivations. Make certain your security policies are written down and provided in plain language. Provide employees with briefings about the most common causes of breaches, such as leaving devices unattended and reusing passwords. Help them to understand that internal failures of data protection impact not just the business but also the stability of their livelihoods. Your approach here should be geared toward gaining buy-in from all stakeholders and encouraging them to be effective security collaborators.

Perhaps most importantly, commit to giving mandatory cybersecurity training to all workers. This should be geared toward both general security protocols and those specific to each employee’s position in the organization. This empowers them to have clarity on not just what the problems are but also how they can be active participants in prevention.

Utilize Appropriate Tools

Knowledge is a great resource for preventing insider threats, but it’s not the only method at your disposal. The rise of our digital landscape hasn’t just created additional technological risks to be wary of. It is also instrumental in providing potential solutions. As such, it’s important to adopt relevant and robust tools to counter insider threats to your organization.

One positive approach to this is to decentralize aspects of your data management. When you store key information on your company premises, this can leave it vulnerable to internal breaches. Cloud-based data management solutions shift the burden of storage and protection to a remote system. This not only means the right staff can access data conveniently wherever they are in the world. You’ll also find that cloud storage providers utilize the most sophisticated cybersecurity protocols. Often, these will be more robust than your business alone would be able to implement.

Another tool to mitigate insider threats is solid security event management software. These are usually supported by artificial intelligence to automatically scan and monitor your internal networks. When internal or external issues arise, the software can both implement protective measures and alert relevant staff members. It also boosts transparency to offer security staff and business leaders full visibility of issues and behavior in real-time.

Conclusion

Insider cybersecurity threats tend to be among the most common causes of data breaches and related issues. As such, it’s important to gain a better understanding of the different types of threats to improve your ability to identify them. Maintaining solid documentation and education processes can give your staff clarity on how such risks arise and their role in preventing these. It’s also wise to adopt tech tools you can use to monitor and prevent breaches. By taking the time to solidify your internal protections, you’re in a better position to narrow your organization’s exposure to disruption.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Brenneman

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Brenneman, you can follow her on Twitter.

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