The Dangers Within: Understanding Insider Threats

By Published On: December 21, 2022

the dangers within understanding insider threat

Businesses rely more than ever on technology to keep their ship afloat. To keep your business smooth sailing, you are going to need a team who can: troubleshoot tech disasters, provide solutions for the plethora of common cloud computing issues, understand the importance of data backups and recovery, know the ins and out of a business communications system, and most importantly provide a top-notch security package. Partners Plus has over 30 years of experience providing those services to various types of businesses.

With most companies embracing remote or hybrid workforce models in the wake of the pandemic, cybersecurity threats have grown rapidly across the world. Insider risk has become a key problem for businesses — a risk that must be investigated, well-understood, and dealt with from the top down. An insider threat could be anything from negligent employees who lack cybersecurity training to rogue employees who facilitate a breach for personal gain.

The increased frequency of insider threats and the severity of data breaches resulting from them is a wake-up call to all organizations to take proactive steps to combat this serious security risk.

However, before taking any preventative security measures, you must understand where these risks come from and why. In this blog, we’ll discuss all aspects of insider threats including the motivations behind them, potential actors, primary targets, consequences, and more.

Actors behind insider threats

Anyone with access to critical information can pose a potential insider threat risk if the information is unknowingly or maliciously misused, resulting in a data breach. Businesses need to identify these actors if they want to curb insider threats effectively.

Insider threat types can be classified as follows:

  • Negligent insiders – This may include careless executives or employees with access to privileged information. These insiders don’t have any motivation – money or otherwise. They are simply careless in their actions or may have fallen victim to a scam. In a recent incident, an IT employee deleted critical case files from a police department’s cloud storage, not realizing that millions of files were not completely transferred.
  • Malicious insiders – These are insiders who intentionally abuse their credentials for personal gain. These actors can be more effective than external attackers because they have access to privileged information and are aware of security loopholes. They may be motivated by monetary gain or may have a personal vendetta against the company. An ex-employee of a medical equipment packaging company gained administrator access to the company’s computer network by hacking. He modified and wiped a huge volume of records to take revenge for his job loss.
  • Contractors or vendors – Third-party vendors and contractors who have temporary access to an organization’s IT network can cause a data breach. The motivation, in this case, could also be negligence or malice. One of the Army Reserves payroll systems was once targeted by a contractor who lost his contract and activated a logic bomb to create a delay in delivering paychecks.

Motivations behind malicious insider threats

Malicious insiders are usually motivated by one or more of the following reasons:

  • Money or greed – Most cases of non-negligent insider threats are motivated by money and personal financial gain. A greedy insider with access to restricted information is most often the culprit in this case. For instance, two employees stole intellectual property on calibrating turbines from a global energy leader and used it to form a rival company.
  • Revenge – Another common reason for insider threats is vengeance. Disgruntled employees, who believe they have been wronged by the company they once worked for, are usually behind this type of threat. When a disgruntled former employee of a tech giant deleted hundreds of virtual machines, the company suffered huge losses before it could recover.
  • Espionage – Many large organizations across the world have been victims of economic espionage from competing firms. This is mainly done to gain a competitive advantage in the market. An extranational, state-owned enterprise infiltrated an American semiconductor firm with corporate spies to steal valuable trade secrets.
  • Strategic advantage – Intellectual property theft against corporations is most often a result of trying to gain a strategic advantage in the market. A renowned smartphone company became a victim of an insider attack when its blueprint for bendable screen technology was stolen by its supplier.
  • Political or ideological – There have been many documented cases of insider threats motivated by political or ideological factors. These cases often concern national pride or revenge against another nation for the attack. There have been numerous incidents of international hacking of businesses, human rights organizations, and intellectual property theft.

Why insider threats are dangerous

Insider threats can have a massive impact on your data and bottom line. They typically aim for an organization’s core assets, including confidential data, product information, business strategies, corporate funds, and IT infrastructure. Huge expenses are incurred because of downtime losses, lost business opportunities, and more. Above all, it is frequently difficult to identify and contain these dangers.

Don’t wait to protect your business

Although the consequences of insider threats may be severe, you don’t have to face this problem alone. If you are wondering how you can mitigate these threats and prevent losses, we’ve got you covered. Check out our eBook to learn key strategies for mitigating insider threats.

Reach out to us today to understand different ways of building a resilient cybersecurity posture against insider threats.

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Partners Plus began in 1991 as an outsourced IT department after working as the Director of Programming and a Consultant for six years. For 30+ years now, we have been 100% committed to ensuring small- and medium-sized business owners have the most reliable and professional virtual CIO in the Delaware Valley. Our dedicated team of professionals will solve your IT nightmares quickly and without confusion on your part.

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Bill Hogan is the Owner and President of Partners Plus. He has 40 years of experience in the technology industry, specifically IT support services. Bill has spoken at seminars all over the country about network management. Partners Plus was selected by PHL17 as the best Computer and Information Technology Support Company in the greater Philadelphia area in 2018.

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