Are Insiders the Biggest Corporate Cybersecurity Risk in 2018?


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Companies facing data breaches in 2018 should probably investigate employees and third-party vendors before pointing the finger at external cybercriminals or nation-state hackers, a cybersecurity pro told Bloomberg Law. 

Nation-state cyberattacks–often naming China, North Korea, or Russia as the alleged bad guys – make the headlines. The massive Equifax Inc. data breach has been linked to state-sponsored actors, according to Bloomberg News. Ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Not-Petya have also been linked to foreign nation-states. 

But workers and other insiders with access to sensitive information may be the more likely data breach incident culprits, Kurt Long, CEO and founder of data protection company FairWarning in Tampa, Fla., told Bloomberg Law. “Insider threats will become more and more important to delve into throughout 2018,” he said.

A quarter of data breaches can be pinned on internal actors, according to Verizon Communications Corp.’s latest data breach investigations report

Access to sensitive information, including trade secrets, consumer information, and payment card data makes insiders a particular threat, Long said. Once they have demonstrated their ability to retrieve information from a company’s network, “insiders that have privileged access may advertise their services on the dark web for a fee,” he said. 

Companies should be on the lookout for disgruntled employees upset with corporate policies or management, or workers with financial or legal problems, Long said. This can often be the case with government employees who wish to do the government harm “for political reasons or financial gain,” he said. 

Companies can take active steps to defend against insider threats, such as “integrating access controls into the security architecture,” Long said. Employees and third-party affiliates should have limited or no access to sensitive corporate and consumer data, he said. Only employees or vendors that need access as part of a necessary job function should be given access to the most sensitive data, he said. 

Additionally, companies should implement access control monitoring software to track which employees and vendors are accessing sensitive information, Long said. If an employee or vendor is caught accessing privileged information without consent there should be consequences–such as increased security training or job termination–he said. Basic cybersecurity hygiene tips may also protect against insider threats, and in any event, up a company’s overall security posture. 

“This has to be part of a larger corporate culture change,” Long said. 

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