Insider Attacks and How to Prevent Them



In regards to cybersecurity to your small business, not all risks come in the shape of a hacker feverishly working to acquire access to your sensitive info. A growing number of threats come from inside a business, whether the attack was willfully perpetrated or not. By understanding the possible risk of an insider attack and comprehending some possible telltale signals, you can mitigate those risks and keep your information safe.

What is a real attack?

An insider attack, or even insider threat, is an example in which someone with valid credentials to your business’s assets and networks uses their privileged access to cause injury to the firm. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency defines insider threats as information breaches that could comprise”sabotage, theft, espionage, fraud, and competitive advantage… often carried out through abusing access rights, theft of materials, and mishandling physical devices.” Under this definition, an insider threat can occur for several reasons through a selection of methods.

While current workers are normally a common cause of this kind of intrusion, anybody using a company’s info poses a security risk. According to a 2020 Ponemon research , the amount of insider threats has increased by 31 percent in the past two years, with costs inflating to $11.45 million. The study also found that the frequency of such episodes spiked by 47 percent during that exact identical period. With companies becoming more reliant on digital communications and remote access of sensitive information than ever before, insider risks are very likely to develop into a more frequent and expensive occurrence.

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What is the distinction between an insider danger and external attack?

While inner attacks stem from somebody within the business already having access to the sensitive areas of your company, an external attack happens when someone beyond your company attempts to acquire access. While the two kinds of intrusions can occur in similar ways, such as malware and malware, the big distinction is who is perpetuating the attack.

What are the different varieties of insider attacks?

Just because there are numerous ways in which an outsider can gain access to a firm’s systems, there’s more than 1 way to get an insider attack to happen. In nearly every instance of an earnest attack, the largest differentiator is whether your workers, former employees, partners or contractors will be in on it from the start.

“The greatest risk to organizations remains the human component of security,” explained Kon Leong, CEO and also co-founder of Silicon Valley data governance firm ZL Technologies. “While it is possible to lock down permissions and track data movement against all programmatic access, ensuring that humans don’t behave maliciously or negligently has become an even bigger concern now more than ever.”

According to a 2019 report by Verizonthe five most common forms of cyber dangers small businesses face are”the careless worker, the inside agent, the disgruntled employee, the malicious insider and the feckless third-party.”

Kevin Parker, co-founder of vpnAlert, said these attacks may also be categorized as the following: pawn, goof, collaborator and lone wolf. In each of those cases, different procedures of attack have been taken, different people may be involved and various steps could be taken to stymie such threats.


In the event of a pawn insider threat, the individual involved normally has no idea they have been targeted or are causing the issue. Generally, this occurs when an employee has fallen victim to some malicious literary attack by an outsider, either through a malicious attempt or social engineering. If it occurs, often it suggests that an external threat has gained access to the pawn’s credentials, causing the worker to develop into a compromised insider.


When employees don’t follow security measures, leaving the business open to external threats, Parker said they fall into the goof class. Purposeful skirting of business guidelines could be the result of attempting to produce things more useful for themselves, however they simply don’t wish to follow the principles, making them an especially stern insider. Such an act may be as simple as storing business login data in the cloud, that would be simpler to get but significantly less protected.

This cyber hazard, as reported by a 2020 Cyber Threats Report by Netwrix, has 79 percent of chief information officers worried that”users might ignore IT policies and guidelines, increasing security risk.” Though they don’t cause the issue with any malicious purpose, they often end up accidentally making dangerous decisions that leave the company vulnerable, leaving a door open for an outsider to gain access, in the process.


Even though the preceding two cases were the result of gross neglect or some other digital accident, attacks that fall into this class have the potential to make a large amount of damage.

Insider attacks that contain a collaborator see workers voluntarily working using a third party to intentionally hurt their own employer. Does this leave your sensitive information potentially vulnerable to your opponents, but this kind of threat is additionally a major vector of attack to corporate espionage, resulting in major financial losses.

Lone wolf

This kind of danger can stem from an angry employee, builder or someone with privileged access seeking to actively hurt a business.

What are possible points of attack?

Listed below are some methods of ingress that external forces may try to use to gain access to a company’s information or the way inner members of your team can cause harm.

Internal hacking

This kind of attack is the consequence of a person making the willful choice to do things like steal information, leak access or change sensitive information.

Email attacks

Phishing attempts really are a common way for people to access a person’s sensitive information. When this is put on the company setting, the damage can be compounded, as now it’s not only an individual’s information at risk, but the entire company’s.

“Given the number of ransomware attacks occurring in recent years, email-based threats are getting most of the attention today,” said Richard Long, a business continuity consultant at MHA Consulting. “Phishing, malware and ransomware are all types of attacks that come through email; providing access through these emails is almost always unintentional.”

Ransomware attacks

Much like email/phishing attacks, ransomware strikes are accidental in character, with downloaded files often acting as the point of entrance. These attacks generally create a corporation’s system becoming locked down with a virus, together along using hackers demanding a charge prior to the systems can be retrieved again. Based on Bitdefender’s Mid-Year Threat Landscape Report 2020there was a”715% year-on-year increase in detected and blocked ransomware attacks.”

“These attacks can bring a company to a halt by disrupting access to data, shutting users out of their emails and even jamming up phone systems,” said Ara Aslanian, CEO of Inverselogic. “Ransomware attacks have shut down critical organizations like schools and hospitals for days, and disrupted supply chains for weeks at a time.”

Mobile and cloud storage attacks

With the increased shift to remote work in the aftermath of this COVID-19 outbreak, workers have relied upon mobile and cloud-based storage. With sensitive and private data both residing in the cloud, it’s become easier for this information to be endangered. While the existence of this technology isn’t necessarily the threat, since it’s usually protected pretty well, the issue crops up when people copy sensitive information out of a business cloud account to their private account for easier access.

“Mobile and cloud storage attacks have the potential to be more potent if an employee needs access to data at home; they may put that data in their personal account,” Long explained. “This puts this information at risk, as many do not have high security on their home systems and networks.”

The level of risk is dependent upon how cautious the worker is about maintaining their private cloud storage protected, according to Long.

What are cases of literary attacks?

In the past several years, many high-profile cyber attacks have created headlines. While the tales sometimes smack of the type of corporate intrigue or Worldwide espionage you would find in some Hollywood blockbuster or even New York Times bestseller, these examples are all actual events that happened:

Edward Snowden and the U.S. National Security Agency. Whistleblower and former CIA worker Edward Snowden used his privileged access to smuggle highly classified data in an effort to expose exceptionally invasive NSA actions.

Tesla information leaked by”disgruntled” employee Martin Tripp. In 2018, electric vehicle maker Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk fell prey to an undercover assault when a former worker, Martin Tripp, supposedly gained access to this”manufacturing operating system” to steal a significant number of proprietary information , that was subsequently sent to an unknown third party.

Former Coca-Cola worker induces a data breach. Another 2018 episode saw Coca-Cola coping with a data breach following a former worker was found to be in possession of an external hard drive full of sensitive information . Among that information, according to the enormous beverage business, was private information of up to 8,000 additional workers.

The Way to safeguard Your Company from insider attacks

There are ways to preemptidentify and prevent possible attacks. Though this kind of infestation is inherently tough to recognize as it’s happening, there are ways you can make sure things never reach that point.

Implement employee monitoring program.

There’s an entire subsection of company software aimed toward safeguarding your information by keeping tabs on your employees’ activities. Through the use of employee monitoring software, an employer can set rules for how data is handled and set triggers that go off when the suspicious activity of a potential insider threat is detected.

“Employee monitoring software can help you spot potential threats by flagging unusual network activity. It may cause a warning when an employee attempts to access databases or files that are out of the usual working demands,” said Aslanian. “Employee monitoring software may also be used to protect against non-malicious actions that still expose networks to risk. As an example, it may block access to websites that are high risk for malware”

Establish a “zero-trust” cybersecurity stance.

In many insider attack cases, data became compromised by someone the employer trusted, regardless of whether it was a high-ranking IT manager or someone further down the totem pole. Unfortunately, that may mean that the days of giving someone carte blanche trust over a company’s sensitive data are gone.

By taking such a guarded stance, Aslanian said employers should assume that”any device to a network could be jeopardized and therefore requires continuous authentication of users.” Those users should also be granted the bare minimum access that they need to do their jobs, he said.

Provide cybersecurity training to employees.

Part of the issue surrounding insider threats is that many times, these incidents occur by accident. By educating your employees about the importance of keeping data secure, Aslanian said you can create an additional barrier against internal attacks — especially when it comes to things like phishing attempts.

“It’s very important to train and refresh workers on the latest phishing email scams,” he said. “These are becoming increasingly sophisticated, often spoofing names of senior managers or providers to dupe workers into clicking on links. I’ve even known main IT officers to fall for these kinds of scams”

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