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How to protect business-critical data from human threat

July 27, 2022

Although the technology-driven era we live in has made information sharing and data access very efficient, it has also presented a new set of challenges. One of the major challenges businesses face is the rising threat to data security. However, the threat to business data does not always come from external actors. Recent research shows that human error, whether intentional or unintentional, was the main reason behind 90% of data breaches in 2019. To make matters worse, insider-related cyber security incidents have increased 47% in the last two years. 

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the biggest threat to business-critical data comes from human elements inside an organisation. 

Since data is the lifeline of most businesses in a digital environment, any compromise can jeopardise operations and bring businesses to a complete halt. To avoid this, businesses need to be aware of the threats posed by insiders and incorporate the necessary measures to prevent them. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the risks the human factor poses to cyber security and how you can overcome them.

Actors and motivations behind insider threats

There are two main types of actors behind all insider threat incidents – negligent insiders who unwittingly act as pawns to external threats and malicious insiders who become turn cloaks for financial gain or revenge.

 

Negligent Insiders – These are your regular employees who simply do their jobs but occasionally fall victim to a scam orchestrated by a cyber criminal. These actors do not have any bad intentions against your company. However, these actors are also the most dangerous since they account for over 50% of all insider threat incidents.

Negligent insiders contribute to data security breaches by:

  • Clicking on phishing links sent by untrusted sources
  • Downloading attachments sent from suspicious sources
  • Browsing malicious or illegitimate websites using company devices
  • Using weak passwords for their devices
  • Sending misdirected emails to unintended recipients

Malicious Insiders – These are disgruntled employees who wreak havoc on your data security for financial gain or revenge. While financial gain is the top reason behind most malicious insider actions, it isn’t always the case. Despite being rare in occurrence, these threats often have much more severe consequences since the actors have full access and credentials to compromise your security. Losses are usually quite severe for any organisation, irrespective of their size.

Best ways to prevent insider threats and protect data

When a business falls victim to a data security breach, it faces more than just financial repercussions. The organisation’s reputation, competitive advantage and intellectual property often come under fire following an insider threat incident. Additionally, there are compliance regulations that impose hefty fines on businesses for allowing such a breach to occur. It is estimated that 60% of companies go out of business within six months of a major data breach incident. That’s why you must take a proactive approach when it comes to combating insider threats.

Detecting insider threats

There are certain factors that can help you identify insider threats before you experience a full-blown breach:

  • Human behaviour: A potential insider with malicious intent against an organisation will display abnormal behaviour. For instance, an employee trying to access privileged information and frequently staying late after office hours could be abnormal behaviour to watch out for.
  • Digital signs: Before a major breach due to insider threats, you may witness some abnormal digital signs like downloading a substantial amount of data, high bandwidth consumption, traffic from unknown sources and unauthorised use of personal storage devices.

Defence strategies against insider threats

There are several strategies that you can implement throughout your organisation to minimize the possibility of insider threats.

  • Insider threat defence plan: Your strategies against insider threats start by creating a defence plan specific to insider threats. You need to define what constitutes abnormal behaviour in your employees and set up alerts for digital signs in your IT environment. Most importantly, you need to limit access to critical data and provide unique credentials for those with access to your data.
  • Data backup: Backups are essential to protect your data in case of an unavoidable loss. With regular backups for your critical data, your business can get backup and running after a security breach involving an insider. Before you backup your data, you need to classify what data is worth protecting and create a strategy accordingly.
  • Employee training: When properly trained, employees could be your first line of defence against various cyber threats. You need to create an organisational-level best practices policy that outlines clear instructions on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, passwords and remote working.

The Zero Trust approach

Consider using endpoint security measures to create a ‘zero trust’ environment. Zero trust is a cyber security model in which users are not automatically trusted by the network, so they must prove their identity before being granted access to resources. Adopting this approach can help protect your business against malicious actors trying to gain access to sensitive data or systems through stolen credentials. Every device and user is treated as potentially untrustworthy until proven otherwise. This can be accomplished by using application control software to restrict access to only approved applications and using endpoint security technologies to identify and block malicious activity.

Reach out to us to protect your critical data

With the cost of insider threats expected to rise over the years, having a trusted partner by your side to protect your data from all kinds of human threats can go a long way towards securing your business.

With our years of expertise in data security and storage, we can help you incorporate innovative strategies to protect your data. Get in touch today on 01684 882700 or email info@quintech.co.uk

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