Are You Afraid of the Unintentional Insider Threat? Cybersecurity Tips

Malicious insiders exist among us, and sometimes, we hire them. Like a demon in disguise, they trick us into trusting them. Then, they treat themselves to confidential company data. As a trusted employee, it’s unnerving to know that something evil might be lurking in the cubicle next to you. What is more spine-chilling is that the insider threat can be anyone… even you! So, read on, and learn how to protect yourself from becoming an unintentional insider threat.

What are Insider Threats?

Insider threats are security risks originating from individuals within an organization who have authorized access to systems, data, or networks. These threats can be intentional, involving malicious actions by insiders, or unintentional, arising from inadvertent mistakes or negligence.

Benefits of an Insider Threat Detection Program

What are Unintentional Insider Threats?

Unintentional insider threats refer to security risks that arise from the actions or behaviors of individuals within an organization who have authorized access to systems, data, or facilities but inadvertently compromise security without any malicious intent. These threats are typically the result of human error, lack of awareness, or negligence, rather than intentional malicious actions. Unintentional insider threats can have significant consequences for the organization’s security and require proactive measures such as training, awareness programs, and implementing robust security controls to minimize the risks associated with them.

Unintentional Insider Threats Can be as Harmful as Malicious Insider Threats

Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to protecting your organizations most precious assets. Ignorance is RISK. So, even if there is no malicious intent, like losing your smart phone with your e-mail automatically signed in, you’re a cyber security risk. Maybe it’s stolen (but let’s hope it is not) and ends up in the hands of a criminal. The fact that they can now communicate as you from your business e-mail account (thus stealing your identity) is a problem for you and your company.

As a result, you are an insider threat – even if it is accidental.

Insider Threat Examples

  • Accidental data leakage: Unintentionally sharing sensitive information with unintended recipients through emails, file transfers, or other communication channels.
  • Misuse of privileges: Authorized individuals abusing their access rights to gain unauthorized access to data or systems, either for personal gain or due to negligence.
  • Falling victim to social engineering: Employees being tricked by phishing emails, pretexting, or other manipulation tactics and inadvertently providing access or sensitive information to malicious actors.
  • Negligent handling of data: Mishandling physical or digital data, such as leaving confidential documents unattended, using weak passwords, or improperly disposing of sensitive information.
  • Unintentional introduction of malware: Inadvertently downloading or installing malicious software, such as malware or ransomware, through infected attachments, compromised websites, or unauthorized software downloads.
  • Configuration errors: Misconfiguring security settings or network infrastructure, leading to vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.
  • Unauthorized disclosure of credentials: Unintentionally sharing login credentials or passwords, potentially allowing unauthorized individuals to access systems or sensitive data.
  • Careless handling of removable media: Losing or misplacing USB drives, external hard drives, or other portable storage devices containing sensitive information.
  • Lack of security awareness: Employees lacking awareness about security best practices, making them more susceptible to unintentional actions that could compromise security.

5 Ways to Avoid Becoming AN Unintentional Insider Threat

Unintentional actions, such as carelessness, can cost your organization lots of money. Similarly, it can cost you your job. Want to remain ahead of the threat? Then implement these workplace insider threats best practices:

1. Practice Cyber Safety on Social Media

In todays digital age, it’s inevitable that your employees are going to be active on social media. Most likely, your company has a presence on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn. It’s a great way to connect with friends, spread awareness for your brand, and gather the latest news. However, it’s also a great way for others to gather information about you.

Those that use their social media accounts for both work and personal life, should be very mindful of the personal information they share. For example, your company CEO uses LinkedIn to promote the business and connect with industry professionals. They post a photograph of a cruise ship with the caption “Bon Voyage! Be back in two weeks!” Now, 5,000+ people know that the company CEO is on vacation and the duration they will be gone for. This information might seem innocent, but it poses a risk of CEO fraud.

2. Beware of E-mail Phishing Scams

Social engineering is making it easier for criminals to carry out successful phishing attacks. By leveraging the art of communication, familiarity, and deception, phishers trick unaware employees. Some of these e-mails use company lingo, logos, and might even come from what looks like a company e-mail address.

“People are susceptible to phishing because these attacks exploit basic human nature, like curiosity and pride. Organizations would be wise to ensure that their users know about the potential dangers of clicking links and opening attachments in e-mails,” says Craig Cooper, Gurucul COO.

Clicking a link with malware, or giving away company information to a hacker, makes you an unintentional insider threat. Be aware of behavior before performing an action. Is it common for the company CEO to e-mail you at 10 pm asking you to send over customer information? If you suspect something unusual, or phishy (no pun intended) going on, wait until you can speak to someone directly. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in these situations.

3. Carelessness Can Result in a Compromised Account

Waiting for a delayed flight at the airport may sound like a great time to knock out some emails. However, these are the types of places where cybercriminals prey on unsuspecting and naïve business travelers. Refrain from using public wifi networks, if you can, or opt for the hot spot on your phone instead. In addition, be aware of who is around while filling out login and password information. A career criminal knows how to discretely gather information without you even knowing.

4. Change Passwords Frequently

Change passwords often, and keep them unique, for each digital platform and online service that requires log in username and passwords. This can be done monthly, quarterly, or as frequently as you’d like. This ensures that the only people signing into your accounts are those that are supposed to.  Maintain unique usernames and passwords for each. So, if one account is compromised, it doesn’t result in the hacker using the same credentials to hack others.

5. Be Consistent and Patient

A reliable insider threat program uses behavior monitoring technology to detect unusual activity between users and entities. If the technology picks up that you sign on to the network every Monday through Friday around 9 AM, then a login on a Saturday evening might trigger an alert. It is not unusual to have a project, or task, that requires your attention outside of traditional working hours. However, do not be surprised if you need a system administrator to grant you permission to proceed. It’s just the threat detection technology preventing a security breach!

Predict, Detect, and Prevent Insider Threats with Gurucul

It’s neither witchcraft nor black magic – it’s machine learning on big data! Gurucul’s technology monitors user and entity activity to find patterns in behavior. Then it creates a risk score based on the data collected over time. Any deviation from normal behavior indicates a potential threat.

Are you ready to mitigate threat incidents, data breaches, and security risks before they wreak havoc? Visit our Insider Threat solution page for details. We can help!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a type of unintentional security threat?

One type of unintentional security threat is the accidental disclosure of sensitive information. This can occur when individuals inadvertently share confidential data through email, instant messaging, or other communication channels. It could be the result of mistakenly sending a message or file to the wrong recipient, failing to properly secure or encrypt sensitive data, or unintentionally sharing information in public forums or social media platforms. Accidental disclosure can have serious consequences, leading to unauthorized access, data breaches, reputational damage, and potential legal or compliance issues.

Are unintentional insider threats not of concern?

Unintentional insider threats are indeed a significant concern in terms of cybersecurity. While malicious insider threats tend to receive more attention, unintentional insider threats should not be overlooked. Employees or authorized individuals within an organization can unintentionally cause security breaches through actions such as mistakenly clicking on phishing emails, falling victim to social engineering tactics, or unknowingly downloading malware onto company systems. Unintentional insider threats can have serious consequences, as they often bypass traditional security measures and can lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, or the spread of malware within an organization.

What is the most common insider threat?

One of the most common insider threats is the misuse of privileges or access rights by employees or authorized users. This can occur when individuals abuse their authorized access to sensitive information or critical systems for personal gain, curiosity, or inadvertently through negligence. It includes activities such as unauthorized access to confidential data, unauthorized sharing of sensitive information, or performing actions that violate security policies or protocols.