Insider Attacks: Prevention & Saving Your Business Data

Cyber Security

The more underrated form of cybersecurity is that of insider attacks. These threats don’t need to hack through the firewalls first defence to gain access, as they already have access to the network. If businesses and organisations want to protect their sensitive data, they need to practice spotting potential threats from within and have a plan of action. 

An insider attack is a security risk created by an actor who could be an employee (past or present), consultant, board member, or business partner. According to a 2020 Ponemon survey report, insider attacks have grown by 31% in the last two years. The frequency also grew by a further 47%. So, let’s find out how you can keep your organisation safe.

How Insider Attacks Work

In 2020, the cost of insider threats for organizations was 2.79 million US dollars. Here are some of the methods an internal attacker might use. Alongside having the data to hand, this is how they may operate:- 

  • Email – Typically email phishing will be used to access data via an untrustworthy link. They might also be in a position where they already receive emails with sensitive data, and either misuse it or accidentally share it. 
  • Internal Hacking – This is usually aligned with malicious attackers who hack their way to corrupt files or the network. Resulting in leaked data that was accessed from within the organisation.
  • Mobile & Cloud Storage – This is typically accidental and arises from employees downloading data onto at-home devices. Due to Covid-19, this type has been increasing, with employees needing to work from home. 
  • Malware – This could also be an accidental issue, with employees allowing malware and ransomware to gain access onto the network. 

The Different Types of Insider Threats

An article by TechJury stated that 66% of organisations believe malicious insider attacks or accidental breaches to be more probable than external attacks. These are the typical actors that cause insider threats. It’s all about their intentions:- 

  • Careless – This is usually the most common cause of insider attacks. The careless insider is unaware that they have accidentally allowed threats into the organisation or leaked delicate information. An example might be an employee downloading sensitive data onto their mobile and then lost their mobile. 
  • Malicious – In most cases, it’s a contractor or employee. Anyone with legitimate credentials, but they abuse that for fun or profit. They could be involved with selling secrets to foreign governments or even sharing information with a competitor upon resignation.
  • Mole – Typically, a professional who poses as a high-ranking employee. Their aims are similar to a malicious insider, as they seek to gain access for profit or take down the organisation.

How to Identify Insider Attacks

What are some of the warning signs? Here is a look at potential risks within the company:-

  • Unhappy/ Past Employee – Companies should be aware of employees that are unhappy with their salary, have left the job, display any sort of disgruntled behaviour. Especially if these employees have displayed suspicious activity on the network. 
  • A Change of Hours – Any employees that switch shifts to the later hours could be due to easier access from less monitoring. These should be kept a close eye on.
  • Activity – Are they violating corporate policies? Ask yourself if their recent activities have been suspicious, have they accessed unusual resources?

Best Ways To Prevent Insider Attacks

Planning for these threats is the best way to lower the risk. The more you can strategically plan for avoiding these issues, the better your company will do in dealing with them if they do occur. Here are some tips on preparing for and preventing insider threats and ultimately protecting your assets:-

  • Identify weaknesses 
  • Train staff on data safety measures
  • Monitor emails, files, and your data sources 
  • Only give data access to employees that require it 
  • Use security analytics to detect strange behaviours
  • Reinforce policies 
  • Revoke access to past employees
  • Perform forensics when investigating the issue


It is challenging to keep a 100% sturdy cybersecurity system when the human element is involved. These people already operate within and are aware of the organisation’s weaknesses. 

The secret to a fantastic defence strategy is gathering information, monitoring your data, and implementing systems that detect abnormal behaviour. Remember to keep detailed logs on user access, and have a security team ready to investigate. 

Also, if you are experiencing issues with your data security, consider reaching out to compliance agencies or other network security professionals.


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