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IDC Report: Most Insider Leaks Happen By Accident

Unintentional leaks may cause more damage than internal fraud, research study says

Accidental security leaks happen more frequently and cause more damage than malicious insiders, according to a study published earlier today by an industry research firm.

According to a report (PDF) issued by research firm IDC and sponsored by RSA, 52 percent of respondents characterized their insider threat incidents as predominantly accidental, while only 19 percent believed the threats were deliberate. Twenty-six percent believed their insider issues were an equal combination of accidental and malicious threats, while 3 percent were unsure.

"One of the things that jumped out at us from the study was how many insider incidents are unintentional," says Chris Young, senior vice president of RSA products. "These are individual actors who often are just trying to do their jobs and don't understand that what they are doing is dangerous."

Almost 82 percent of CXOs were unsure if incidents caused by contractors and temporary staff were accidental or deliberate, the study says.

"Employers view their relationship with employees as one of trust and recognize their people are their biggest asset," said Chris Christiansen, program vice president of security products at IDC. "But the vast nature of an organization's infrastructure, coupled with a dispersed, often global, employee base and complex internal user mix of employees, consultants, partners, and outsourcers make addressing the risks posed by its internal users the biggest security challenge that CXOs currently face. Whether the risk is intentional or not, it's there. It's real."

In the previous 12 months, the 400 respondents in the study admitted to 6,244 incidents of unintentional data loss, 5,830 malware/spyware attacks from within the enterprise, and 5,794 incidents of risks created by excessive privilege and access control rights. The number of internal security incidents totaled 57,485 for the year.

Almost 40 percent of organizations plan to increase spending on internal security risks during the next 12 months; only 6 percent said they will decrease spending.

One of the most common offenses in enterprises is the maintenance of expired user accounts, the study says.

"Out-of-date and/or excessive privilege and access control rights for users are viewed as having the most financial impact on organizations," IDC says. "In years past, IDC has estimated that as many as 60 percent of all accounts on most systems are expired. This large number of expired accounts means that insiders who no longer have a relationship with the firm continue to use the firm's IT resources, [such as] network, email, applications, and data.

"Other insiders can also use these expired accounts to misrepresent themselves and/or harass other employees, defraud the firm, or commit illegal acts against the firm's partners," the study continues. "Needless to say, expired accounts are a significant issue in failed audits."

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About the Author(s)

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading


Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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