What to Know About Internal Cybersecurity Threats and Risks
Organizations of all sizes are prioritizing cybersecurity in 2022. There are reasons that it’s made it from IT departments to board rooms as a key strategic priority. Let’s look into insider threats.
First, since the pandemic started, more people have been working remotely than they ever have in the past. This means that employees are accessing data, assets, and employer systems from different places in the world. Identity and access management solutions and tools are essential in a distributed work environment.
Another reason cybersecurity is such a priority is that attackers exploit weaknesses in an increasingly sophisticated and devastating way.
What organizations have to realize, however, is that threats don’t always come from outside the organization. There are plenty of internal threats to contend with as well, from purposeful theft of data to inadvertent mistakes made by employees that put an entire organization and its data at risk.
The following are key things to know about internal cybersecurity threats and how they affect risk plans for businesses and organizations.
What Are Insider Threats?
In cybersecurity, we tend to think first and foremost about external threats. We consider those cyber attackers that might be lurking around waiting for an opportunity to pounce. However, there are plenty of threats that can come from within. Along with current employees, internal threats can come from former employees, partners, and contractors.
There’s the potential these people can misuse their access to assets and networks to purposely or inadvertently disclose, change or delete information.
The information that can be compromised is extensive. It could include employee and customer data, financial records and information, and login credentials.
The concept of an insider threat and the real risk is why many companies are moving toward Zero Trust cybersecurity.
In traditional approaches to cybersecurity, the idea is that threats exist externally, and anything within a network is inherently safe and secure. In Zero Trust, nothing is inherently trusted. This can mitigate the fallout if someone does gain access to a network.
Zero Trust is an excellent way to deal with the reality that traditional measures are often ineffective against internal threats.
What Types of Insider Threats Exist?
Some examples of insider threats that can pose a risk include:
1. Current employees: A current employee working for you may be taking data or information to make money outside of their position in the company. They may be colluding externally, selling company secrets, or engaging in other types of fraud as a way to gain financial.
2. Disgruntled employees: When an employee is angry or frustrated because of how things or currently going, or perhaps they’ve been recently fired, they can pose an insider threat. If you fire employees, offboarding them properly is critical. Sometimes a disgruntled employee might steal data and intellectual property for financial gain, but other times they do it simply out of spite to get revenge or sabotage the organization.
3. Negligence: Far too often, employee negligence is overlooked in terms of being a cybersecurity threat, but it’s one of the primary issues that companies need to deal with. Negligent employees may not be following cybersecurity protocols, or they may not be well-trained on what they are. Errors can occur once or regularly.
4. Non-responders: The area of non-responders can fall into the larger category of negligent employees, but it’s also helpful to highlight this category on its own. Non-responders are often senior executives and leaders within a company. They don’t participate in security awareness training, and they may not realize they’re a particular target. This way, they’re more likely to fall victim to specific scams like sophisticated phishing attacks.
Above, we talk about the groups that pose an insider threat. The following are specific actions and activities that organizations need to consider as they’re planning for cybersecurity in 2022 and beyond.
5. Social engineering: Technically, social engineering is an external threat, but it only works if there’s an internal threat to exploit. Someone in a social engineering attack is tricked into providing information, like passwords. The best thing you can do to protect against this is to invest in practical, comprehensive employee training.
6. Data sharing: If your employees share data with third parties or publicly out of carelessness, it can create serious risks. Again, much like safeguarding against social engineering, the best thing you can do is train your employees to protect sensitive data adequately.
7. Shadow IT: This particular term refers to the use of unauthorized applications, services, or third-party software that isn’t visible to IT departments. When a company isn’t aware something is being used, it is a blind spot in their cybersecurity initiatives. These third-party services may not have robust security protocols in place either, so that can also lead to breaches and leaks.
8. Use of unauthorized devices: Many companies are embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, which can in and of itself create several internal cybersecurity risks. Employers have to find ways to balance convenience and privacy with security, and it’ll be a critical strategic challenge soon.
9. Physical theft: Employees have access to a variety of equipment and devices. They may lose these devices, or someone might steal them. Sometimes, a departing employee will purposely or unintentionally take a device when they leave the company, leaving you open to data breaches and cybercrime.
What Can You Do?
There are a lot of specific strategies you can rely on depending on the size of your company and the particular threats you face. Still, the two most important things to remember are visibility and employee training.
Visibility means your IT department can see precisely who’s doing what. That is one of the most important ways to prevent internal cybersecurity threats from becoming more significant issues.
As far as training, many of the internal risks to your company come from a lack of awareness and human error. All employees need to feel like they’re accountable for cybersecurity, and they need to understand what their role is and how they can avoid disastrous security issues.
How To Report a Scammer
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Meanwhile, educate yourself with some other cyber fraud-related articles, so that you know how to stay safe online. Last but not least, use the comments section below to expose other cybercriminals.
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