Your Biggest Cybersecurity Threat Comes From Within

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Earlier this year we discussed the threat of a cybersecurity attack to your small business and several ways to protect it.  Among the suggestions was creating a culture of cybersecurity in which data protection permeates every aspect of your business.  That’s an often overlooked part of an overall cybersecurity plan, but it’s critical.  The reality is that data breaches, no matter the size or scope, are usually caused by an action or failure of someone inside the company. You might worry most about nefarious actors outside the walls of your office hacking in, but you need to pay attention to your employees, too.  Wells Fargo just learned this the hard way.

A 2016 study by IBM reveals that 60% of all attacks were carried out by insiders.  Of these attacks, 75% involved malicious intent.  The study also revealed that health care, manufacturing, and financial services are particularly vulnerable to attack, thanks to their cache of personal data, intellectual property and physical inventory, and substantial financial assets, respectively.  That does not mean that other industries are safe, however.  All businesses employ people who have the potential to breach their security.

It’s not always intentional.  In fact, misaddressed emails, stolen devices, data sent to insecure home systems, and the other “oops” moments pose a significant risk.  Your IT administrator, whose complete access to your company’s data, can turn a small mistake into a catastrophe, without ever meaning to.  But it really doesn’t matter.  Unintentional mistakes can be just as costly as malicious attacks.  And with insider threats often flying below the radar of many detection technologies, they can be particularly difficult to manage.

Analytics and the rise of artificial intelligence are making it easier to identify potential insider threats and are becoming less frustrating and intrusive for users . However, even with advances in technology, you need to focus on some basic security efforts first.  Here’s what we suggest:

  1.  Guard your most prized possessions.

    The bad guys want the goods.  Identify your most valuable systems and data, and give those the strongest defenses and most frequent monitoring.

  2. Apply deep analytics.

    How people use and interact with technology is pretty easy to manage with a good analytics system.  Deep analytics and artificial intelligence can uncover deviations in employee behavior as they relate to technology, making it much easier to spot indications that systems have been compromised.

  3. Monitor everyone, even your inner circle.

    We hate to admit it, but the people closest to us can often be our worst enemies.  IT admins, top executives, key vendors, HR reps…they all hold the potential for great damage.  No one should be above security monitoring.

  4. Sweat the small stuff.

    New technology is exciting, but maintaining basic safeguards can have the biggest impact.  So keep applying software patches that automatically close windows, enforce strong standards for user identities and passwords, and collect all the data and forensics you can on every device that touches your network, among using other basic techniques. Train your people, test them, and then try to trick them with fake exercises. These basics require work and perseverance, but they make a tremendous impact.

When you read the next headline about some breach by an external hacker, remember that these attacks account for less than half of the breaches out there.  And when they are successful, the hackers probably used the identity of an unsuspecting employee to pull it off. Take action to now to secure your organization from the inside out.

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