As companies grapple with pandemic-induced economic uncertainty, operational disruption and business transformation, cybersecurity has increasingly coalesced with these priorities. Several high-profile cybersecurity incidents drove news cycles in 2021, prompting leaders to reassess their defensive postures.
As a result, Gartner’s 2021 CIO Agenda Survey found that more than half of C-suite executives view cybersecurity as the top priority moving forward. It’s easy to see why: The latest industry report concluded that the average data breach surpassed $4 million in recovery costs, an all-time high. Meanwhile, increasingly stringent regulatory standards and hardened consumer sentiment has prompted businesses to reconsider their cybersecurity readiness. This past October, businesses had an opportunity to double down on that priority as Cybersecurity Awareness Month reminded leaders to #BeCyberSmart.
While businesses work to defend their data and IT infrastructure from an increasingly expansive threat landscape, CIOs and other decision-makers will need to answer critical questions about how to deploy their limited cybersecurity resources. In many cases, they can expect the most robust return-on-investment by defending against insider threats—the employees, contractors and other privileged users with access to critical company data. With the “human element” accounting for 85% of cybersecurity incidents, insider threat detection and prevention is a proven way to improve data privacy and cybersecurity standards moving forward.
Here are three ways companies can begin that process today.
Understand Insider Threats
Insider threats are frequently overlooked. After all, a company’s employees are often empowered as trusted members of the organization, tasked with improving growth, supporting outcomes and sustaining customer relationships. However, some insiders will capitalize on that trust, using their privileged access to steal customer data, company secrets or other valuable digital assets.
These malicious actors are often motivated by money. With a ready market of dark web consumers, it’s relatively easy for employees to turn network access into financial gain. Of course, some insider threat actors are driven by other motives, including leveraging insider access for professional gain, personal vendettas or even unabashed amusement.
While most employees will not become malicious insiders, some will, and companies can enhance their cybersecurity readiness by acknowledging the threat and developing response protocols to prevent company insiders from undermining cybersecurity and data privacy.
Teach Cybersecurity Best Practices
Companies need to guard against malicious insider threats, but they also need to equip their employees with cybersecurity best practices. Accidental insiders, employees who undermine cybersecurity due to their ignorance or by accident, are endemic at many companies. With employees managing everything from new hybrid work models to historic numbers of phishing scams, there is a desperate need to teach and train employees to keep data secure.
For example, a survey of employees’ cybersecurity readiness found that 61% of participants failed a cybersecurity fundamentals quiz. Meanwhile, companies spend just 5% of their IT budgets on employee training.
Specifically, employee training can include:
- phishing scam awareness
- data management best practices and expectations
- personal device restrictions
- digital hygiene fundamentals.
When coupled with accountability measures, employee training empowers everyone to #BeCyberSmart in any environment.
Whether an employee intentionally steals company information or accidentally compromises data privacy, the outcomes are the same. Businesses face escalating recovery costs, intense regulatory scrutiny and often irreparable brand erosion. That’s why companies need to take action to guard against insider threats.
Employee monitoring software powered by AI behavior analytics can help IT leaders identify risks before they erupt, preventing cybersecurity incidents before they occur. In addition, highly capable software solutions can separate casual alerts from high-risk behaviors, empowering cybersecurity personnel to take action without inundating them with action items.
This is especially important as many cybersecurity teams experience burnout after yet another challenging year. Tragically, one survey found that 70% of respondents say their work managing IT threat alerts emotionally impacts their home lives. Similarly, more than half report that their teams are overwhelmed by the number of alerts reaching their desktops.
By deploying highly capable employee monitoring and insider threat prevention software, companies can reduce the strain on their IT teams while continuing to guard against this significant cybersecurity concern.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Why Wait?
After a challenging and disruptive year, many business leaders better understand the centrality of cybersecurity to their day-to-day operations and long-term sustainability. This year—you don’t have to wait for October—is an opportunity to evaluate cybersecurity readiness, ensuring that the right people, processes and resources are available to meet the moment. When doing so, consider the impact of insider threats, and don’t let this often-overlooked threat category go unaccounted for in the year ahead.