FEATURED STORY OF THE WEEK
Internal Cybersecurity Threats You Might Not Be Aware Of
External cybersecurity risks have long been a serious concern among businesses and public organizations. Phishing scams, ransomware, and malware are among some of the most common types of cyberattacks launched from sources outside the organization.
And attention paid to external threats isn’t unwarranted. According to Fortinet, Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) found that 70% of data breaches were caused by outsiders.
But internal cybersecurity threats can be just as devastating as external ones, especially when internal parties have first-hand access to sensitive systems and data. If your organization safeguards sensitive information for your clients, customers, and partners, you must be prepared for internal cybersecurity risks like those outlined below.
Theft or Loss of Devices
The widespread adoption of mobile, cloud, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology has given organizations unprecedented agility and flexibility. Mobile technology became integral to organizations in 2020 and 2021. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as much as 42% of the U.S. labor force worked from home full-time.
But this level of enhanced remote connectivity is not without risks. Employees are increasingly being issued with company devices to take home, whereas some organizations are following a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model, allowing staff members to conduct business on their personal devices.
When data is stored on devices outside of the organization’s network, the risk of a data breach escalates. Organizations that don’t have cybersecurity standards for remote and personal devices put their data security in the hands of individual employees, many of whom may not have robust security mechanisms in place on their devices.
If devices are lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised, they can act as a gateway to the organization’s network and place sensitive data at risk
As such, organizations must create a set of standards for monitoring, tracking, and securing any devices that might contain sensitive data or entryways to the organization’s network. Most organizations accomplish this through employee training, but staff members should also be equipped with the same robust security tools the organization uses.
System virtualization is also a viable option for reducing risk. Staff members with high-speed internet can connect with the organization’s on-premise devices using virtual desktops and other connectivity software. This removes the risk of data being stored outside the network.
Unauthorized Software and Devices
Similarly, staff members who connect unauthorized devices to the network could open opportunities to hackers and other malicious actors. Unfortunately, unauthorized devices can be difficult to detect, especially on large corporate networks that could include thousands of machines.
There are a few solutions to this problem. Training employees in device discipline is a start. Staff members could be made to declare new devices before they synchronize them to the network, undergoing a set of security protocols before they can connect.
Furthermore, AI-powered security tools can be employed as part of the organization’s network monitoring suite to detect unauthorized devices. Often, such devices have names and identification markers are indicate they are unusual or unauthorized. Names, device types, and new connections can be automatically flagged by an AI, enabling security professionals to identify and analyze them to determine whether they are a risk.
Unauthorized Sharing of Data
Unauthorized sharing of data can pose a significant risk to organizations, and it doesn’t always take the form that one might think. Any data that isn’t secured in a designated location can pose a risk.
Additionally, the unauthorized sharing of data is much more common than organizations realize. According to Infosecurity Magazine, about 25% of companies discovered data that was stored outside designated secure locations in 2019. What’s even more troubling is the fact that 23% of those companies said it took weeks to discover that data.
Organizations need robust data-sharing policies to prevent data from reaching unauthorized locations. More importantly, employees need to be well-versed in these policies, so they can avoid mistakes before they happen. There must also be a system to track the entire data lifecycle, from the moment the data is created to when it is stored or destroyed.
Access controls can also help prevent data from reaching unauthorized locations. Granting access privileges to staff based on identifiers and login information makes it easier to track data flows across and outside the network, then link transfers of data to specific instances and individuals. Access control has the added benefit of ensuring sensitive data can only be accessed by those who need it.
Malicious Employees and Insider Attacks
Although they are still relatively uncommon, insider attacks are becoming more frequent, and most organizations don’t believe they have sufficient protections in place to prevent them. According to Fortinet’s 2019 Insider Threat Report, 68% of organizations feel moderately or extremely vulnerable to insider attacks, while 56% believe detecting insider attacks has become significantly or somewhat harder since migrating to the cloud—something many organizations have been pursuing over the past several years.
As such, insider attacks are cybersecurity risks every organization must consider. Employees with high-level access to the network—such as IT users—can do considerable damage. They might be motivated to do so if they have malicious intent toward the company, if they are being coerced by an outside party, or if they are being given an illicit financial incentive.
These types of attacks can take a variety of forms. For example, an employee with access could simply transfer data to a party outside of the network. However, insider attacks can also include viruses, malware, ransomware, social engineering attacks, and various forms of corporate espionage.
Thankfully, there are several steps organizations can take to protect against these threats. For example, they can do the following:
- Establish system permissions for all staff members.
- Provide employees with regular security awareness training.
- Conduct background checks on employees with access to sensitive data.
- Define access controls across the network and analyze requests for more system access.
- Ensure employees know that all network activity is logged and monitored.
- Create cybersecurity practices for remote work or use virtualization.
- Create strict password policies and ensure passwords are updated regularly.
- Use two-factor authentication to verify network access.
- Create strict rules for the use of personal devices.
By taking these steps, you can ensure your network is more secure from insider attacks. None of these measures are prohibitive to regular operations, so honest employees should be able to conduct business normally.
Protect Your Network
It pays to look outward for potential cybersecurity risks, but organizations can’t overlook internal risks either. Your organization can significantly reduce the risk of an internal security breach by taking the steps outlined above, but you also need a robust set of tools, systems, and processes in place to protect your network.
Contact us at Uvation today to start protecting your organization with an innovative approach to cybersecurity.