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In today's digital technology era, the threat of cyber attacks looms large, with enterprises spending billions of dollars each year to safeguard their data and systems from external threats. However, insider security threats are another kind of threat that is just as dangerous but often overlooked.
An insider security threat is a security breach caused by an individual or group within an organization who has authorized access to the organization's resources, such as an employee or contractor. With the increasing remote work trend, insider security threats have become more prevalent and difficult to detect. In this article, we will explore the dark side of remote work and how insider security threats could lurk in your company.
We will discuss the risks of insider security threats in remote work, the common insider threats in remote work, the factors contributing to these threats, and how to mitigate them effectively. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the importance of addressing insider security threats in remote work for the success of your enterprise.
Risks of Insider Threats in Remote Work
How remote work increases the risks of insider security threats
Remote work introduces new risks to an organization's security posture that can lead to increased insider threats. The lack of direct supervision and oversight of remote employees can create an environment where employees feel empowered to engage in risky behaviour, knowing they are unlikely to be caught. Additionally, remote work can make detecting unusual behaviour that might indicate a security breach more difficult, especially if the company's security protocols are not designed to accommodate remote work.
Overview of the different types of insider threats
Several types of insider threats can occur in a remote work environment. One common threat is the "accidental insider," where a remote employee inadvertently exposes sensitive information through a mistake such as a misconfigured setting or emailing the wrong recipient.
Another type of insider threat is the "negligent insider," where a remote employee neglects to follow proper security protocols, such as failing to update software or using a weak password. More malicious insider threats can include a remote employee intentionally stealing data or sabotaging systems.
Examples of recent insider threats that have occurred
Recent examples of insider threats in remote work include adeparting employee at Yahoo who allegedly stole trade secrets, a software engineer who installed a backdoor into the company's network, and a contractor who accidentally exposed sensitive data by failing to secure a database properly. These examples highlight insider threats' risks to remote work and the importance of addressing them.
Common Insider Threats
Insider Threats from Remote Workers
Whether intentional or unintentional, remote workers can pose significant insider security threats to an organization. Here are two types of insider threats from remote workers:
Insider Threats from Malicious Remote Workers
Malicious remote workers are individuals who deliberately engage in actions that threaten an organization's security. These actions can range from stealing data and intellectual property to causing damage to systems or selling company information on the dark web.
Insider Threats from Negligent Remote Workers
Negligent remote workers are individuals who inadvertently put company data and systems at risk through carelessness or lack of knowledge. Examples of negligence include clicking on suspicious links, using weak passwords, or failing to update software.
Insider Threats from Contractors and Third-Party Vendors
In addition to insider threats from remote workers, contractors and third-party vendors can also pose a significant threat to an organization's security. These individuals may have access to sensitive data and systems, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. Additionally, contractors and third-party vendors may be subject to different security protocols and policies than regular employees, making them more vulnerable to attacks.
Insider Threats from Former Employees
Former employees with access to company systems and data can also pose a significant insider security threat. These individuals may be disgruntled or have the incentive to steal company data, making them a high-risk threat. Proper procedures for revoking access to company resources should be in place to minimize the risk of insider security threats from former employees.
Factors Contributing to Insider Threats in Remote Work
Lack of supervision and oversight
One main contributing factor to insider security threats in remote work is the need for more direct supervision and oversight of remote employees. Remote employees often have more freedom and less oversight than they would in a traditional office setting, leading to risky behaviour that can put company data and systems at risk.
Distance and anonymity
The distance and anonymity of remote work can also contribute to insider security threats. Remote employees may feel disconnected from the company and its mission, leading to a lack of loyalty and a willingness to engage in risky behaviour. Additionally, remote workers may feel more anonymous, making them more likely to engage in malicious or negligent behaviour without fear of being caught.
Inadequate or missing security protocols and policies
An organization's security protocols and policies are crucial in mitigating insider security threats. However, remote work can make enforcing these protocols and policies more difficult, especially if they were designed with something other than remote work in mind. Inadequate or missing security protocols and policies can increase the risk of insider security threats in remote work.
Increased access to sensitive data and systems
Finally, remote work can increase the risk of insider security threats by providing employees with increased access to sensitive data and systems. Remote workers often require access to company resources to do their job effectively, but this access can also make them a target for cybercriminals. Additionally, remote workers may be more likely to store sensitive data on personal devices or use insecure networks, increasing the risk of insider security threats.
Mitigating Insider Threats in Remote Work
To mitigate insider security threats in remote work effectively, organizations need to implement specific measures that address the unique risks posed by remote work. Here are four ways to mitigate insider threats in remote work:
Implementing effective security protocols and policies
Organizations should implement best practices to secure remote access, such as limiting access to sensitive data and systems, using encryption, and requiring multi-factor authentication. Additionally, it's essential to ensure that all employees, including remote workers, know these security protocols and policies.
Conducting regular security awareness training for remote workers
Organizations should conduct regular security awareness training for remote workers to ensure they know the risks associated with remote work and how to mitigate them. This training should cover topics such as safe online behaviour, recognizing phishing attacks, and protecting company data and systems.
Monitoring remote workers for suspicious activity
Organizations should monitor remote workers for suspicious activity that could indicate an insider security threat. This monitoring can include regular audits of access logs, reviewing unusual activity reports, and using monitoring tools to detect anomalies in remote worker behaviour.
Building a culture of security in the remote workforce
Finally, organizations should prioritize building a security culture in the remote workforce. This includes creating a shared understanding of the importance of security among all employees, encouraging open communication about security concerns, and ensuring all employees feel empowered to report suspicious activity without fear of retaliation.
By implementing these measures, organizations can effectively mitigate insider security threats in remote work and protect their data and systems from harm.
Get ahead of the risks of insider threats in your organization by speaking with one of our experts. Our team has extensive experience identifying and mitigating potential insider threats and can provide guidance and support to protect your business from costly breaches.
Take action now to safeguard your organization - schedule a consultation with one of our insider threat experts today.
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP