For decades, companies have been building “fortresses” around their digital systems to fend off cyber threats from the outside. But lurking through the walls, insider threats — whether it’s a disgruntled employee, a negligent partner, or a compromised account — have long been a silent, looming danger.
A change in dynamics
Traditionally, the term “insider threat” conjures up images of malicious employees selling company secrets or sabotaging systems. However, today’s internal threats are much more diverse and complex. The rise of remote work has blurred the boundaries of corporate perimeters. Employees who access corporate data from unsecured home networks or use personal devices without strict security measures increase the risk of accidental data leaks or breaches.
In 2015, one of Stanley Morgan’s bank employees downloaded 350,000 customer data to his personal server, which was then found for sale online. What became evident, among other things, was the vulnerability in the bank’s systems. Morgan Stanley also faced fines for inadequate security measures. Such incidents underscore the danger of employees having excessive access privileges, but also the importance of strictly monitoring these accesses.
Similarly, the popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies has brought its own set of challenges to the fore. While it promotes flexibility and convenience, it also introduces a plethora of devices, operating systems, and security protocols (or lack thereof) into the corporate ecosystem.
Social Engineering: Human vulnerability
In today’s cyber landscape, insiders aren’t just threats because of what they might do intentionally or unintentionally. They’re also potential vulnerabilities. Sophisticated cybercriminals recognize that manipulating employees through social engineering tactics is often easier than circumventing advanced cybersecurity measures.
One of the most well-known manifestations of this phenomenon was the Twitter breach in 2020. The hackers managed to compromise several high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama. Investigations later revealed that the attackers had gained access by manipulating Twitter employees through a spear-phishing phone attack. Such incidents shed light on the stark dangers of social engineering, even within tech-savvy organizations.
Multi-layered security and the Zero Trust model
The trust model can no longer form the basis of a security strategy. Relying on trust leaves gaps that attackers are all too eager to exploit. That’s why organizations are increasingly turning to the zero-trust security model.
Under the Zero Trust framework, no user or device, whether inside or outside the organization, is trusted by default. Any user and device trying to access an organization’s network must be verified. This model uses a combination of multi-factor authentication, identity and access management, micro-segmentation, and continuous monitoring, drastically reducing the threat surface.
Securing the future
As the nature of work continues to evolve, so does the nature of insider threats. A case in point is the 2017 case of Waymo vs. Uber. A former Waymo employee allegedly stole 14,000 technical files about Waymo’s self-driving car technology. The ensuing legal battle has highlighted the risks to competition and the economic impact that domestic threats can create.
Monitoring evolving threats requires vigilance and expertise. Outsourcing cybersecurity services not only provides organizations with access to the latest advances in technology but also the knowledge of experienced professionals who are constantly updating their skills. By choosing to partner with a dedicated cybersecurity service provider, businesses can ensure that while focusing on their core responsibilities, their digital systems remain robustly protected from both external and internal threats.
ITCS always acts as the customer’s trusted partner, providing advanced expertise in the current threat landscape. Make a strategic move to stay ahead of threats in an increasingly digital and connected era.