Insider Threats are Getting More Dangerous

James Kelsh
17th October 2022
Information Security

Insider Threats are Getting More Dangerous

Insider attacks are one of the most difficult attacks to detect. An “insider” is anyone that has legitimate access to your company network and data via login or other authorised connections. This includes employees and vendors.

Because insiders have authorised system access, they can bypass certain security defences that are designed to keep intruders out. They’ll know the passwords and have access to MFA codes, so defence systems won’t be alerted or triggered.

There are three troubling statistics from a recent report by Ponemon Institute that illustrate the importance of addressing this threat. Insider attacks are getting worse, taking longer to detect and becoming more extensive.

The report found that over the last two years:

  • Insider attacks have increased by 44%
  • It takes organizations 85 days to contain an insider threat, compared to 77 days in 2020
  • The average cost of addressing insider threats has risen by 34%


4 Types of Insider Threats

One reason that insider threats can be hard to detect is that there’s not just one kind. Employees, vendors, and hackers can all perpetrate insider security breaches. To further complicate detection, some may be malicious and others accidental.

Here are the four main types of insider threats faced by company networks.

Malicious / Disgruntled Employee

A sales employee that is leaving the company may decide to take all their contacts with them – this is a malicious theft of company data. Another example of this type of insider attack is a disgruntled employee who may have had a disagreement with a manager or lost their job. They could then steal company data or do the business harm. For example, they could plant ransomware or make a deal with a hacker to give over their login credentials for cash.

Careless / Negligent Employee

Some insider threats are due to lazy or untrained employees. They don’t mean to cause a data breach but may accidentally share classified data on a non-secure platform. Or they may use a friend’s computer to access their business apps, being completely unaware of the security consequences.

3rd Party with Access to Your Systems

Outsiders with access to your network are also a very real concern. Contractors, freelancers, and vendors can all constitute an insider breach risk. You need to ensure that these third parties are fully reviewed before you give them system access. You should also allow your IT partner to review them for any data security concerns.

Hacker That Compromises a Password

Compromised login credentials have now become the #1 driver of data breaches around the world. When a cyber criminal can access an employee’s login, that criminal becomes an “insider.” Your computer system reads them as the legitimate user.

Ways to Mitigate Insider Threats

Insider threats can be difficult to detect after the fact, but if you put mitigation measures in place you can stop them in their tracks. Being proactive keeps you from suffering a costly incident that you may not know about for months. Here are some of the best tactics for reducing insider threat risk.

Thorough Background Checks

When hiring new employees make sure you do a thorough background check. Malicious insiders will typically have red flags in their work history. You want to do the same with any vendors or contractors that will have access to your systems.

Endpoint Device Solutions

Mobile devices now make up about 60% of the endpoints in a company, but many businesses aren’t using a solution to manage device access to resources. Put an endpoint management solution in place to monitor device access. You can also use this to safelist devices and block unauthorised devices by default.

Multi-factor Authentication & Password Security

One of the best ways to fight credential theft is through multi-factor authentication. Hackers have a hard time getting past the 2nd factor. They rarely have access to a person’s mobile device or FIDO security key. Couple this with password security.

This includes things like:

  • Requiring strong passwords in your cloud apps
  • Using a business password manager
  • Requiring unique passwords for all logins

Employee Data Security Training

Cyber Awareness training can help you mitigate the risk of a breach through carelessness. Train employees on proper data handling and security policies governing sensitive information. You can learn more about our Cyber Awareness Training offering here.

Network Monitoring

Once someone has user access to your system, how can you catch them doing something wrong? One way is through the use of AI-enabled threat monitoring. This allows you to detect strange behaviours as soon as they happen. For example, someone downloading a large number of files or logging in from outside the country.


Need Help Putting a Stop to Insider Attacks?

A layered security solution can help you mitigate all four types of insider threats. We can help you with a robust yet affordable solution. Contact us today for a free consultation.

James Kelsh

James heads up our Information Security department, helping clients to understand cyber security and assisting with certifications such as Cyber Essentials and IASME.

With an extensive history of working in the information technology and services industry, he is a qualified Information Security auditor, able to audit companies to Cyber Essentials + and IASME Gold standards. James holds a Masters Degree, with a focus on IT and Information Security, from the University of Liverpool.

James has experience in various senior IT roles as well as a BSc in Physics, CISSP and SSCP certifications.

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