Even though small businesses focus most of their attention on the real dangers coming from unknown cyberattackers, it is important to realize that the biggest cybersecurity threat actually comes from within companies themselves. As this blog post will discuss, insider threats pose the greatest risks to the smooth operation of your small company.
What is an Insider Threat?
An insider threat is defined as a risk to an organization brought about by the actions of employees, former employees, business associates, or contractors. These actors have critical information about your security policies and can gain access to all or part of your network. The danger from their actions can come about out knowingly through greed or malice as well as out of ignorance or carelessness.
Some Sobering Insider Threat Statistics
- A study by the Ponemon Institute reported that 62% of employees reported that they had access to company data that they probably didn’t need to have.
- A 2017 Verizon report revealed that 25% of data breaches last year were carried out by insiders.
- A 2017 IBM study reported that 58% of attacks against financial services companies and 71% of attacks against health care organizations were from malicious insiders or unwitting employees.
- A SANS report found that only 9% of companies considered their defenses against insider threats to be very effective.
- A study by Cybersecurity Insiders found that 90% of companies felt vulnerable to insider threats.
Cost of an Insider Attack
The cost of a successful cyberattack can vary with the size of the company and the extent and duration of the breach, but they are normally significant. Cybersecurity Insiders reported in their 2018 Insider Threat Report that 27% of companies lost between $100,000 to $500,000 per successful insider attack, and 24% of companies estimated their damages to be more than $500,000 per breach.
In addition to the monetary cost of these attacks, companies also need to factor in the damage to their reputations and the negative impact on employee morale that occurs as a result of these devastating occurrences.
Ways to Protect Your Small Business against Insider Threats
Limit employee access to data
The most logical way to prevent both malicious and ignorant insider attacks is to carefully limit the employees that have access to sensitive information. In addition, employees should only have access to certain segments of sensitive client or company data. In short, your company should actively apply what is known as the “principle of least privilege.” This method ensures that employees will only have the information privileges that are absolutely necessary to perform their job functions.
Establish clear company processes and procedures to bolster data security
To defend against intentional and unintentional insider threats, your small company should take the time to develop and execute clear processes and procedures for onboarding and offboarding employees. One important policy is to carry out thorough background checks of all potential employees during the hiring process. In addition, your business should have clear procedures on how to access the internet, social media, and emails, and how to handle company data both in the office and remotely.
Control the offboarding process
Your company should carefully control and oversee the critical offboarding process as this is when a disgruntled employee is most likely to act maliciously. As a result, access to your company’s network should be immediately revoked as soon as a termination occurs, and the former employee should be monitored and given a strict time limit to exit company premises.
Provide comprehensive security training for employees
To mitigate the insider threat from careless and ignorant employee behavior, your small company should provide regular comprehensive training in proper internet and email protocol and other data security processes and procedures. Your employees should be educated and aware of your company’s acceptable use and social media policies. In addition, you should regularly update your employees on the latest security threats and how they can avoid becoming a victim.
Pay attention to your employees’ well-being
It is also recommended that your company pay attention to the morale and well-being of your employees as a way to alleviate stress and improve performance. Your company should enforce mandatory vacations and provide stress management seminars and other vehicles to help employees manage anxiety and other issues at the office. These measures will help reduce the number of stressed and disgruntled employees at your workplace.
Utilize data monitoring and auditing technology
Your small business should take advantage of security monitoring technology to detect unusual outbound traffic. In addition, your company should implement a log correlation tool to monitor and control your employees’ data access.
Perform regular vulnerability testing and assessments
Your company should perform internal and external vulnerability assessments and configuration testing to ensure that your settings and systems are as secure as possible. An IT security expert can help you in establishing and executing these important protective measures.
Have backup and recovery solutions in place
As with other forms of data breaches, the last line of defense against insider threats is to ensure that you have comprehensive backups and recovery solutions in place. With these solutions available, your company will be able to quickly recover and restore your operations in the event of partial or complete data loss. With the ability to quickly resume your operations, even in the face of the worst data breaches, a malicious insider or outsider will not be able to hold your company hostage.
Work with an IT security expert
Most importantly, your small company should work closely with a trusted IT Support partner, such as Network Depot, to help ensure that your network is as safe as possible from insider and other cybersecurity threats.
An IT security expert will help you in devising policies and training for your employees and will regularly test and assess the vulnerability of your network. They will also install monitoring and security measures as well as backups and recovery solutions that will provide the highest level of cybersecurity. With your cybersecurity needs addressed as much as possible, your small company will be able to keep its focus on your core business objectives.