Business competition in most industries is brutal and getting worse. With globalization, you now have to compete with the entire world for market share. In addition to threats from the outside, however, there are a number of lethal insider threats to a business that you need to become aware of. The most potent insider threats revolve around remote working, cybersecurity, and intellectual property theft.
The Most Common Insider Threats
The number of possible lethal insider threats to your business is limited only by human imagination and the laws of physics. Below is a short list that barely scratches the surface. Treat it as a mind stimulant that is designed to get you thinking.
Malicious Employee or Contractor
Two kinds of malice are relevant here: greed and a grudge against the company or one of its agents. Greed can motivate someone to steal from the company, and computer technology provides myriad ways of doing this. Vindictive malice is even worse, because it can motivate an insider to damage the company out of sheer spite. Such an insider might, for example, provide sensitive company data to a competitor.
The Use of Insider Pawns
A sophisticated attacker might use some of your company’s own employees or contractors against you by impersonating company cybersecurity personnel and issuing orders, duping them into clicking on a “phishing” email, or otherwise granting access to your system, etc. Impersonation from afar is particularly likely in a remote working environment.
Careless Attitudes to Security Protocols
Security procedures exist for a reason. Nevertheless, carelessness is part of human nature. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” in a company security environment means that remote workers are particularly likely to cut corners if they cannot be effectively monitored from afar. One of the greatest security threats in a remote working environment is employees using their own devices, such as USB sticks, to manage company data.
When Third Parties Become Insiders
An outsider can becomes an insider when:
- They infiltrate your organization as spies by seeking and gaining employment with your company; or
- You grant contractors or vendors access to your network.
The resulting damage can be catastrophic. Don’t expect a contractor, a vendor, or a new employee to care as much about the welfare of your company as you do.
Telltale Signs of a Potential Insider Threat
Following are just a few indicators that the security breach you have been fearing is already taking place (and may have been taking place for quite some time):
- Efforts to sidestep security procedures by one individual consistently or by entire departments;
- Employees in the office before or after work hours for no apparent reason;
- Disgruntled employees or employees who might have a reason to become disgruntled (watch these employees very closely);
- Downloads of unusually large amounts of data;
- Use of unauthorized (private) storage devices;
- Data hoarding; and
- Duplication of sensitive files.
Your company’s security procedures should be such that no one can engage in any of the foregoing activities without someone else noticing.
Easy Ways to Do a Lot of Damage
When security threats are the topic, people tend to think of sophisticated, high-tech instructions. Some of the gracest security threats, however, are some of the simplest. Following are some common examples:
- Stealing company data using a USB stick;
- Stealing or copying a hard drive;
- Misconfiguration of network security devices such as firewalls;
- Carelessly hitting “forward” on an email, thereby allowing an outsider to read an entire chain of emails that includes confidential company data; and
- Misusing privileges to gain unauthorized access to data.
Ultimately it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate threats such as these. The best you can do is to enforce a robust company-wide security protocol.
Ways to Mitigate Insider Threats
Following are some ideas on how to manage company security risks from insiders. It is far from complete.
Perform Periodic Security Assessments
Hire a professional to conduct periodic security assessments for your company. The assessment should identify your company’s critical assets, assess its most serious vulnerabilities, and provide recommendations. A security assessment designed to identify external threats can easily be modified to identify internal threats as well. For example:
- Hire someone reputable to break into your system to see of it can be done一and how it can be done; or
- Find out how many of your employees maintain passwords like “password” or “12345678.”
Respond to this assessment by establishing and updating appropriate security measures to eliminate any identified security threats.
Install Security Hardware
Physical security controls include routers, switches, firewalls, servers, etc. These measures can range from low-tech to high-tech. A simple lock on a door is an example of a low-tech solution; a computer firewall is a high-tech solution. CCTV is somewhere in between.
Reform Your Organization’s Hiring Practices
Insider threats come from people who were once outsiders. Hiring someone is a tremendous risk, and you should treat it as such. Perform thorough background checks on all applicants.
Thoroughly Train Your Employees Concerning Company Security Procedures
Effective training is costly because it takes time, and time is money. No security system will be effective, however, until employees are trained and motivated to implement and enforce it. Provide regular updates.
Distribute Information on a Strict “Need to Know” Basis
Implementing a “need to know” information distribution system restricts the amount of data available to malicious employees. It also helps compartmentalize information into individual employee accounts, so a single data breach does less damage..
Perform 24/7 Network Monitoring
You should monitor each area of your business including the on-premises, remote working, and cloud environment, all the time.
When an employee leaves the company, whether voluntarily or by termination, it is important to remove their access to all affected systems immediately.
Decisive Action Makes the Difference
Over the years, the business legal matters lawyer at 303 Legal, P.C., have successfully managed just about every type of security problem that our clients have faced. In many cases, the problem is systemic rather than an isolated occurrence. If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our online contact form or contact us at 319-423-3031 to schedule an appointment. The sooner you involve our attorney, the more we will be able to do to help you.