How an Insider Threat Operates (and What You Can Do to Stop It)

data breach

57% of data breaches involve insider threats within a business. Of course, there are those who inadvertently make mistakes, but there are also those who deliberately attempt to harm a business.

The reasons why malicious individuals carry out insider attacks are shocking. 47.8% do it for financial gain, 23.4% for fun and 14.4% for the reason of espionage.

Hence, you absolutely need to understand the types of risk you face, how an insider threat works and what you can do to stop somebody on the inside harming your business.

Types of Insider Threat

An insider threat can take many forms, some are accidental and some malicious. Understanding the different types will help you better identify and manage threats.

Unintentional Insiders

  • Accidental – This type lacks the knowledge of basic cybersecurity measures. Thus, they inadvertently cause problems for businesses by, for example, falling for a phishing scam or clicking on a malicious link.
  • Negligent – They typically have more knowledge than accidental insiders. However, they might make a mistake or misjudgment, for instance, using unsecured personal devices.

Intentional Insiders

  • Malicious – This type purposefully colludes with external threats. They might be recruited by a cybercriminal.
  • Second Streamers – They carry out malicious acts with the purpose of financial gain. For example, they might exfiltrate and sell data from a company.
  • Disgruntled Employees – This type seeks to harm a company due to dismissal or perceived maltreatment. They might deliberately try to sabotage a business or steal intellectual property.

It’s important to remember that unintentional insiders can be just as dangerous as intentional insiders. Their naivety can still cause damage, disruptions and financial loss.

How to Prevent an Insider Threat

Insider threats are a very real possibility. Yet, if you are vigilant and take action, you can reduce the risk of an insider threat endangering your business. A combination of the right policies and tech will certainly help.



Control Data

First, restrict the amount of data that employees have access to. Assign levels of access on an individual basis. Each employee should only have access to data they absolutely need. Moreover, it’s a good idea to create a data use policy within your organization. This policy should clearly state what employees can and can’t do with data. Explain this policy and its importance to employees.

Protect At-Home Workers

On occasion, your employees may work from home. You also might have remote workers on staff. It’s important that employees work securely, whether they are in the office or not. For instance, if they access work files or emails via public Wi-Fi, they put your sensitive information at risk. Thus, you must equip employees with software that keeps data safe.

Learn How to Spot the Warning Signs

There are both digital and behavioral warning signs you should look out for to stop an insider threat in its tracks. For instance, if an employee requests access to data that has nothing to do with their job, that’s clearly something you need to look into. Or if they bring in a storage device that you have not approved, there could be an attempt to extract data. Here’s a thorough list of warning signs:

Monitor Your Networks

There are also tools you can use to monitor activities and detect suspicious behavior. You may wish to use several different types of solutions simultaneously to get maximum protection. For instance, DLPs are used to catch any violations of your data use policy. UAMs monitor employee activities such as uploads, downloads and emails, in relation to their data privileges.

The fact that over half of data breaches are the result of an insider threat, should be an incentive to implement these security measures. It all comes down to carefully managing sensitive information and employing the right preventative tools. Now it’s over to you. Do you have a data use policy in place?