Are Insider Threats the Security Professional’s Number-One Concern?

Sue Marquette Poremba
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Five Easy Steps for Securing Data

Don’t think you are vulnerable to an insider threat? You might want to have a conversation with your IT department, then. According to Vormetric's 2015 Insider Threat Report, 93 percent of IT personnel think their company is at risk from an insider threat. Also, 59 percent of respondents worry about privileged users or employees who have high-level access to very sensitive data, who are considered to be the company’s greatest threat.

Thanks in part to the recent Sony hack, insider threats and the dangers they pose are getting a lot more attention than they have in the past. But as Eric Guerrino, executive vice president of the Financial Service Information Sharing and Analysis Center, was quoted in eSecurity Planet, insider threats have been a problem for a long time and a top focus area for security concerns. It’s just that now those beyond IT and security staff are beginning to grasp the severity of the issue.


The issue has also been the topic of a number of surveys recently. SolarWinds also conducted a study on insider threats, but their focus was more narrow. According to a release, the survey covered the opinions of 200 IT and security professionals within the federal government, including military and intelligence agencies. These are organizations with some of the highest levels of security clearances and IT security measures. Yet, the study discovered that 53 percent of federal IT pros identified careless and untrained insiders as the greatest source of IT security threats at their agencies, an increase of nearly 10 percent from last year. Plus, 64 percent believe that insider threats pose more danger than an outside threat.

It is clear that IT personnel are worried about insider threats, and despite more awareness of the damage that security incidents can cause and the steps that can be taken to decrease risks, the number of professionals who worry about that insider threat is on the rise.

Insider Threat

The eSecurity Planet article includes a list of recommendations from the Vormetric survey on what companies can do to protect against the insider threat. I noticed that one recommendation is to focus more on the data:

Data protection initiatives need to follow the data -- protecting data at rest wherever it resides. For most organizations, this will involve protecting data held in both traditional environments (on-premise databases and servers) as well as newer big data applications and data used in public, private and hybrid cloud implementations.

This is something I’m hearing more frequently, that security needs to focus more on the data rather than on the perimeter. In the case of insider threats, that has to be the case. They are already inside the perimeter of the network, after all. The question is how to best take that approach and shift gears in the way we think about security overall. It’s a question that I plan to look into more in depth.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba



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Feb 2, 2015 5:04 PM Jim Henderson Jim Henderson  says:
Please feel free to call me with any questions you may have regarding insider threats. I am a contributor to other news media outlets and a public speaker on insider threats. See: http://insiderthreatdefense.com/insiderthreatpublicspeaking.html I teach an Insider Threat Program Training Course to U.S. Government Agencies (DoD, IC), Defense Industrial Base Contractors an businesses and also provide Insider Threat Risk Mitigation Services to my clients. See: http://insiderthreatdefense.com I am the Founder / Chairman Of The National Insider Threat Special Interest Group. The NITSIG Membership is comprised of individuals from U.S. Government Agencies (DoD, IC), Defense Industrial Base Contractors and large and small businesses. See: http://www.nationalinsiderthreatsig.org On March 31, 2015 the NITSIG is have a 1 day insider Threat Symposium and Expo. See: http://www.nationalinsiderthreatsig.org/ Thanks, Jim Henderson, CISSP, CCISO CEO Insider Threat Defense, TopSecretProtection.Com, Inc. 888-363-7241 / 561-809-6800 jimhenderson@insiderthreatdefense.com Reply
Feb 25, 2015 12:34 PM Jessica Jessica  says:
"Data protection initiatives need to follow the data -- protecting data at rest wherever it resides." Excellent point. An insider knows all the security systems you have in place and knows exactly how to work around them. If you want to protect data from the inside-out you need to keep tabs on where that data is and where is goes and who is moving it around. Reply
Aug 7, 2015 9:05 AM Peter Bradley Peter Bradley  says:
I agree that organizations are more and more at risk from insider attack than ever before. According to a study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 73% of large and 41% of small UK businesses had a staff-related security breach in 2014. Employees accumulate access to information they should not have. The risk of serious security incident grows every day. I think organisations should review how they manage and share information within the company. Peter Bradley CEO & Principal Architect Torsion Information Security Reply
Aug 10, 2015 2:24 AM Peter Bradley Peter Bradley  says:
I agree that organizations are more and more at risk from insider attack than ever before. According to a study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 73% of large and 41% of small UK businesses had a staff-related security breach in 2014. Would be interesting to compare these figures with the US! Employees accumulate access to information they should not have. Not surprisingly, the risk of serious security incident grows every day. I think organisations should review how they manage and share information within the company. Peter Bradley CEO & Principal Architect Torsion Information Security http://www.torsion-is.com Reply

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