Network Security 101: Insider Threats & Solutions


Cybersecurity threats are everywhere – you may likely know a victim of a digital attack such as phishing or identity theft. While The Office treated these sorts of crimes with a bit of humor in years past, Dwight Schrute’s comments are far more insightful today than in years past.

Those who are studying for a cybersecurity masters degree online may be exposed to some of the statistics – digital crime can happen in a variety of ways, and it can have truly detrimental impacts on those that it impacts, from loss of credit score to livelihood, and sometimes worse.

The terrifying reality? Often, cybercriminals don’t even need to do much to get access to sensitive corporate systems, particularly if there are malicious insiders in your network. With digital crime costing businesses billions of dollars annually, let’s discover some of the threats that are on any network, and some of the common solutions that can be used to address the risks present.

Malicious Insiders – The Disgruntled Instigator

One well-known threat to organizations is the risk of bad actors, or malicious insiders, that can act within a business, often with little warning. For example, an employee that recently lost their job may feel betrayed by their employer, and look to leak commercially sensitive information that could damage a brand. While this may seem unlikely, malicious insiders account for a not-insignificant proportion of digital crime in the workplace, with some reports estimating that the impact of insider threats to a business can be as much as $15.4 million dollars per event as of 2022, according to the Ponemon Institute.

Understanding these threats can be vital – addressing them can put your organization’s best foot forward and help contribute to positive cyber behaviors in the workplace.

Negligent Insiders – The Careless Threat

While malicious instigators present an active danger to the business, a more significant area of business risk is often insiders who are negligent in their activities. Consider, for example, the ability for someone to compromise a lost laptop, or use a personal email to send sensitive work information.

While an insider may think that these are acceptable, these sorts of transactions can run the very real risk of compromising user data. These insiders highlight the importance of cyber awareness, and the capacity to behave in a cyber-safe manner with corporate resources.

It’s important to be aware of the risk that negligent users pose to a business. While it may seem like malicious insiders represent the most significant risk to business, it’s actually negligent insiders that typically cause the most damage.

Compromised Insiders – Perception is Everything

Even organizations that are well prepared against the risks of cyber attacks run the risk of falling victim to compromised insider attacks, such as phishing and social engineering. In today’s digital world, there’s a very real risk of key personnel falling victim to phishing and spearfishing attacks, putting not only their credentials but also company data, at extreme risk.

One such example of this was the 2020 Twitter cyberattack, where external actors conducted a phishing attack on key administrative personnel within the organization. The impact was rapid – in a matter of hours, the compromised credentials were then used to promote scams on more than a hundred celebrity accounts, including the likes of Elon Musk and Barack Obama.

Embracing Cyber-Safe Behaviors

Cyber-safe behaviors can be difficult to ingrain into organizations, but doing so can have valuable effects on organizational cyber-readiness and awareness in the case of an attack. Understanding the threat of insiders can be helpful in preparing for the next cyber threat – especially if you can motivate and encourage your employees to take cyber threats seriously.

Cybersecurity can be difficult to understand, however, with informative and ongoing training such as data storage protocols to protect customer data, or platforms that use tools such as identity and access management, cyber teams can go a long way to addressing the risks present in the workplace. At the end of the day, the risk of a digital attack represents a clear and present danger to an organization, whether you’re a large healthcare provider or a small local business. Developing positive behaviors that take on the challenges of being cyber-safe can be a great way to get your business prepared in time for the next cyber attack.

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