Insider Threat: Definition & Statistics

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
While an insider threat may sound like the thing that spy movies are made of, the fact is that they present a very real threat to companies that want to keep their data safe.

What is an Insider Threat?

It is a very familiar plot - the spy hero in the latest espionage thriller is all but safe, until the betrayal of someone within his or her own agency! However, while it may seem very exciting in the realm of movies and TV shows, the reality is that such an insider threat could really create a great deal of mayhem for a company. From a simple data breach to causing a company's systems to collapse, insider threats are a real threat to companies for a variety of reasons. In this lesson, we'll look at the role that an insider threat could play in a company, as well as ways to prevent such an attack. We'll end by showing statistics that prove just how real of a threat this can be.

Role in IT

Once upon a time, a company's data could be kept relatively safe in locked filing cabinets. Now, with more and more sensitive data being kept online, that increases the likelihood that data can be compromised. Therefore, IT often has to find itself working alongside the legal and HR departments. The legal department should be kept up to date of any data breaches that occur, while HR should be alerted to any suspicious activity. Of course, it goes without saying that if a particular user is noted accessing data that is not typical for their role, especially if it is sensitive, that access should be blocked.

Potential and Prevention

The reason that insider threats are such an especially dangerous thing is that so much of a network's abilities are dedicated to keeping everyone else out. Most people could not park a car in front of a major bank and access its databases. However, someone on the inside has a much higher likely ability to gain access, largely because they are already inside.

Therefore, it is prudent for companies to take steps to prevent this sort of action. A great deal of those who become insider threats do so for a relatively short list of reasons. Many of them are disgruntled employees or recently terminated workers that want to get vengeance on the company that they think wronged them. However, for an overwhelming majority of insider threats, the motivation was cold hard cash.

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