Understanding Insider Threats

Cybersecurity has increasingly emerged with these priorities as companies grapple with pandemic-inspired economic uncertainty, operational disruption, and business transformation. Several high-profile cybersecurity incidents drove news cycles, prompting leaders to reassess their defensive postures. 

As a result, Gartner’s 2021 CIO Agenda Survey found that more than half of C-suite executives view cybersecurity as the top priority moving forward. Businesses face increasingly stringent regulatory standards, and hardened consumer sentiment has prompted firms to reconsider their cybersecurity readiness.

While businesses work to defend their data and IT infrastructure from an increasingly expansive threat landscape, CIOs and other decision-makers will need to answer critical questions about how to deploy their limited cybersecurity resources. In many cases, they can expect the most robust return-on-investment by defending against insider threats—the employees, contractors, and other privileged users with access to critical company data. With the “human element” accounting for over 90% of cybersecurity incidents, insider threat detection and prevention are proven to improve data privacy and cybersecurity standards moving forward. 

Insider threats frequently are overlooked. After all, a company’s employees are often empowered as trusted members of the organization, tasked with improving growth, supporting outcomes, and sustaining customer relationships. However, some insiders will capitalize on that trust, using privileged access to steal customer data, company secrets, or other valuable digital assets.

These malicious actors are often motivated by money. With a ready market of dark web consumers, it’s relatively easy for employees to turn network access into financial gain. Of course, some insider threats have other motives, including leveraging insider access for professional advancement, personal vendettas, or even unabashed amusement. 

While most employees will not become malicious insiders, some will, and companies can enhance their cybersecurity readiness by acknowledging the threat and developing response protocols to prevent company insiders from undermining cybersecurity and data privacy. 

When it comes to protecting your company from insider threats, a rule of thumb is to educate your employees and business partners on cybersecurity. You also want to thoroughly vet who you are going to partner with based on the maturity of their cybersecurity model. 

Investing in the right cybersecurity tools and technologies will also help your company stay ahead with information security controls and countermeasures against internal data breaches. That said, keeping your business, data, and employees safe begins with awareness and taking proactive action against all the possible insider threats.

Michael Markulec

technology executive, cyber-security guru, politician, rugby player, deadhead, brewer, former army officer, crossfitter, and hard-drinking calypso poet.