One of the greatest threats to your company isn't the competition or a cybercriminal. No, one of your organization's most dangerous threats is already sitting comfortably in the office. It’s insider threats, also referred to as internal threats.
Although external threat actors account for 80% of security breaches according to the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, insider threats can still do a lot of damage to a company and its reputation.
But what is an insider threat, how can you spot them, and what steps can you take to help minimize the chances of an internal threat from occurring in the first place?
What is an insider threat?
An insider threat is a threat that comes from a user inside your organization who uses their authorized access—intentionally or unintentionally—to compromise your organization's network, data or devices. The critical part is that the access is legitimate—these aren't brute-force hackers.
And an insider threat actor doesn't have to be a current employee. Third-party contractors can also be insider threats, as can former employees whose access was never revoked.
Types of insider threats
Insider threat actors come in many forms:
- The careless employee who thoughtlessly clicks on a link in a phishing email
- An employee who doesn't follow cyber security best practices
- The malicious insider who uses their access to steal and sell sensitive corporate and consumer data
- A disgruntled employee who seeks to disrupt business operations or access information for personal gain
- The negligent contractor or vendor who compromises your security by misusing your assets
Regardless of their intent, internal bad actors can wreak havoc for days, months or even years and do serious damage to an organization’s reputation.
How to detect insider threats
While outside bad actors need an exploitable weakness to get inside a network, an insider with malicious intent is already there.
And therein lies the problem. These individuals don't need to hack the enterprise or circumvent its defenses because they have legitimate access to endpoint systems, servers, networks and domains, and they often need that access to perform their daily duties.
These bad actors can steal money, manipulate sensitive information or download data as they go about their regular work routines—and they can continue indefinitely until they leave the company or make an error too big to ignore.
While insider threats can sometimes be difficult to detect, there are some signs to be on the lookout for that could indicate an internal bad actor is at work:
- Logging into the network at odd hours
- Accessing information that’s not related to their job
- Downloading unusually large amounts of data
- Copying data onto their personal devices
- Creating unauthorized accounts