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Study Finds Customer Data to Be Most at Risk From Insiders

Companies say that they are somewhat more worried about inadvertent insider breaches and negligent data breaches than they are about malicious intent by bad actors.

Larry Loeb

November 6, 2019

3 Min Read

Securonix, a vendor of security monitoring products, has come up with an Insider Threat Report 2019that was conducted by Cybersecurity Insiders, a 400,000 member community for information security professionals. The report is based on the results of an online survey that was conducted in June of 2019. The respondents are said to range from technical executives to managers and IT security practitioners, representing a balanced cross-section of organizations of varying sizes across multiple industries.

In this year's survey, companies say that they are somewhat more worried about inadvertent insider breaches (70%) and negligent data breaches (66%) than they are about malicious intent by bad actors (62%). For this question, inadvertent means a careless user causing accidental breach while negligent means a user willfully ignoring policy (but not malicious) and malicious is defined as the user willfully causing harm.

Malicious insiders are thought to be motivated by fraud (57%) and monetary gain (50%) as the biggest factors that drive their actions, followed by theft of intellectual property (43%).

That doesn't mean that organizations are doing well at defusing this threat. A majority of organizations surveyed consider themselves only somewhat effective or worse (56%) when it comes to monitoring, detecting and responding to insider threats.

Respondents think that privileged IT users (59%) pose the biggest insider security risk to organizations, followed by contractors (52%), regular employees and privileged business users (tied at 49%). They also see phishing attempts (43%) as the biggest vulnerability for accidental insider threats.

As far as the apps most vulnerable to insider threats, cloud storage and file sharing apps (such as Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.) rise to the top (39%). This is closely followed by collaboration and communications apps (such as email, messaging, etc.) (38%), and productivity apps (35%).

The type of data at risk has different forms. Survey respondents think that customer data (63%) takes the top spot as they type of data most vulnerable to insider attacks, followed by intellectual property (55%) and financial data (52%).

Organizations think the problem is growing. Seventy percent observed that insider attacks have become more frequent over the last 12 months. In fact, 60% have experienced one or more insider attacks within the last 12 months.

A majority of organizations utilize some form of analytics to determine what constitutes an insider threat. This can include activity management and summary reports (32%), user behavior analytics (29%), and data access and movement analytics (28%).

But only 40% of organizations say that they monitor user behavior across their cloud footprint. Perhaps this is because user privacy is a significant concern in the context of insider threat monitoring for seven out of ten organizations that were surveyed.

Combined with the proliferation of data sharing apps (46%) and more data leaving the traditional network perimeter (45%), the conditions that lead to successful insider attacks may be becoming more difficult to centrally control in the future.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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