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How To Manage Cybersecurity Threats Caused By Employees: A Guide For Remote Companies

Last updated on November 22nd, 2022 at 10:14 am

Despite the conscious efforts of business owners to implement robust cybersecurity measures within their organization, there may be cases wherein data breaches could still happen. For instance, this could be due to human error or mistakes made by your employees. This can be critical since your team members should be the company’s first line of defense again cyber threats and not the reason for them.

With that, employees can be the biggest cybersecurity threat in your organization. Your staff could become victims of social engineering attacks, such as phishing and pretexting, where cybercriminals manipulate them to breach standard security policies by appearing helpful. This can easily enable them to acquire sensitive information from your employees. Commonly, cybersecurity threats resulting from employees are referred to as insider threats.

Worldwide, 34% of companies experience some insider attack each year. And according to a Ponemon Institute report, 67% of organizations experience around 21 and over 40 incidents yearly. These kinds of threats often result from worker negligence or malicious intentions. Whichever the cause, you’d want to ensure your company is safe from security risks. 

This article explores cybersecurity threats caused by employees and ways remote companies can manage such threats. Read on to learn more.

Common cybersecurity issues caused by workers

Some actions your workers perform can expose your business to cybersecurity attacks. Such activities include the following:

  • Downloading malicious software and programs via email or websites
  • Disclosing company data, passwords, logins, or sensitive information by opening scam emails
  • Using personal gadgets that don’t have security software to access company data
  • Unintentionally sending sensitive data to the wrong recipient
  • Losing devices or papers containing critical business data
  • Hackers may convince employees to break security policies and give them passwords or any information they may use to access your company’s data.

It’d be good to note that 95% of cybersecurity threats are a result of human error. For this reason, it’s imperative to raise cybersecurity awareness among your workers and encourage them to be more cautious. 

Types of insider threats

Essentially, users or insider threats have various motivations or objectives. To give you a brief idea, below are the major types of insider threats:

  • Malicious insiders: In this type of insider threat, an employee within your company may deliberately use or give out their credentials to cause damages to your business. Past research indicates that between March and July 2022, 43% of cyber breaches resulted from malicious insiders. 
  • Compromised insiders: These are workers in your company who have opened harmful files or links and consequently infected their devices with malware. 
  • Negligent insiders: Around three-quarters of insider threats result from negligence, costing around USD$484,931 per incident. Negligent insiders generally have no intention of causing any harm to your business. However, they end up placing your company at risk through poor decisions, mistakes, or lack of knowledge and understanding about how their actions can impact your business. 

It’s helpful to recognize these types to understand how breaches could occur and who among your team members might be responsible for one within your organization.    

Insider threat indicators

Sometimes, it may be challenging to detect cybersecurity threats, especially if it comes within your organization. The good thing is that your employees’ unusual actions can suggest someone is a threat. There are two main categories of insider threat indicators:

  • Behavioural indicators

Here are some examples of employee behaviours that you may watch to detect an insider threat:

  • Extreme interest in projects beyond their scope of work
  • Regularly violating company policies
  • Discussing resignation verbally
  • An employee that’s always dissatisfied
  • Resentment towards colleagues or the management
  • Digital indicators

Besides behavioural indicators, the following are also red lights for insider threats:

  • Sending sensitive data to external accounts
  • Trying to access confidential data they don’t need to complete their tasks
  • Downloading vast amounts of data
  • Utilizing prohibited storage devices like USB drives
  • Intentionally searching for sensitive data  

By recognizing these indicators, you can quickly detect insider attacks and take the necessary measure to prevent their impacts.

How to manage insider threats

Cybersecurity threats caused by employees can be managed and mitigated by implementing strong policies within your organization. As a good start, below are some insights to consider:

  • Educate your employees about insider threats

A well-informed team is one of the best ways to prevent insider threats and safeguard critical business data. Moreover, a lack of insider threat awareness among your workers can easily result in cybersecurity problems. 

According to a survey of 12,500 Kaspersky security awareness users, 70% of employees don’t know what to do when a new app asks them for their passwords. Furthermore, 73% don’t know how to check when someone accesses their email accounts. This means that your employees could easily fall victim to phishing emails, install malicious software, or share sensitive data because they aren’t aware of the possible repercussions of their actions.

That said, training your team about insider threats allows them to learn about insider-caused security risks and how they can identify threats. This enables them to always be alert and instantly report suspicious messages. Moreover, consider training them on the various types of cyberattacks, including phishing, malware, ransomware, etc., and how they can spot and prevent them.  

  • Restrict copying and transferring of data

Employees can deliberately or unintentionally expose your company data by copying and transferring data. To prevent this, you can restrict your team members from copying documents to other locations. Additionally, you may block them from moving data to external storage devices, such as USBs. This makes it hard for workers to share sensitive data by mistake or steal information.  

  • Implement geofencing and time-fencing

Another essential strategy you may adopt to manage cybersecurity threats caused by employees is by implementing geofencing and time-fencing. The former enables you to place physical boundaries on employees when using your devices. You can establish alerts so that you may receive notifications in case a team member leaves a particular geographical location. Once you receive such notice, you may lock the device and erase all data. 

On the other hand, time fencing operates the same way as geofencing. It blocks users from accessing sensitive data during off hours.  

  • Implement information security guidelines

Security guidelines safeguard your company’s crucial data by clearly describing team member obligations concerning the information to be protected and why. Such policies enable workers to act accordingly and be held accountable for their behaviors. Therefore, when generating policies, begin with the threats your organization may face and create a strategy your employees may embrace to mitigate the risks.

Additionally, include details on who can access particular data, under which conditions, and with whom they can share the data.  

Conclusion

Insider threats are increasingly becoming the primary sources of data breaches in many organizations. It may be difficult to identify them compared to external threats since the victims are familiar with your organization and can easily avoid detection. Thankfully, there are strategies you may implement to manage such hazards. 

For negligence, take a step to train your employees to always be alert whenever they receive suspicious emails. Moreover, observe all the indicators to prevent malicious insiders from damaging your company.

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