Cybersecurity Strategies to Minimize Internal Threats

Just as more advanced cybersecurity technologies are being developed, cyberattacks have also become increasingly sophisticated. Data breaches in any form pose major risks to businesses – whether yours is a well-established company or a startup.

For example, in 2017, a major data breach involving the leak of the personal identity information of at least 143 million Americans, 15.2 million British citizens, and about 19,000 Canadian citizens took place in Equifax, an American credit bureau. As a consequence, Equifax had to pay $300 million in victim compensation. The company also had to pay $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in fines and $175 million to the states and territories included in the agreement.

Globally, losses arising from cybersecurity threats continue to rise and cost billions of dollars, with total value risks projected to reach trillions of dollars.

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Threats to Businesses

Although cyberattacks are directed toward businesses of all types and scales, their effects on small companies can be particularly disastrous. Small businesses, including startups, are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks as 43 percent of these target small businesses, while only 14 percent of businesses have systems in place to defend themselves. In fact, 60 percent of small businesses fold within six months after experiencing a data breach.

On average, cyber incidents like these cost businesses about $200,000 per data breach, although the largest companies can lose upwards of $300,000 in single cybercrime-related costs. This is why it’s essential for business owners to start investing more in cybersecurity and data protection.

Aside from financial losses due to settlements and for beefing up cybersecurity, data breaches also impact businesses significantly in other ways. Other consequences include loss of income and clients and the termination of staff involved in the incident.

Cybersecurity Challenges from Within

It’s common practice for companies to develop and implement cybersecurity strategies directed toward external threats. However, based on the “2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report” by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, cyberattacks initiated by external parties only account for half of data breaches. Internal factors, including system glitches, make up the other half.

Managing Internal Threats

The role of employees or staff in cybersecurity incidents is something that’s difficult to manage and predict. Most companies would have basic IT and security policies in place. However, these are sometimes not enough, which is why other companies invest more in employee cybersecurity training.

Such proactive measures are necessary for businesses that are heavily dependent on the internet for their operations, including e-commerce sites, financial institutions, and digital marketing agencies. Remember, it only takes one careless employee downloading malicious content, opening a suspicious email, or clicking on an unknown link to open the floodgates for a major cybersecurity incident.

Aside from this, there may also be unhappy employees or individuals who have successfully penetrated your company with the intent to steal information or damage your reputation. To counter these possibilities, below are some strategies you can adopt to manage internal security threats:

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1. Beef up physical security

It’s common practice for companies and other organizations to have guards and security systems in place to discourage physical theft and ensure access control. However, companies that rely on physical objects for access, such as key cards, must rethink their current practices. Objects like these can get lost, stolen, and even borrowed, making them a possible weak link to your security.

One way to address this is by requiring two-factor authentication, fingerprint access, or the use of facial recognition scanners. All employees must be instructed to never leave sensitive documents on their desks and to always store important files securely, away from curious or prying eyes.

2. Improve employee recruitment and supplier screening procedures

Aside from conducting standard background checks on prospective hires, make sure you delve deeper into their background by also checking on their references. Do not take anything at face value. And, if anything feels a little off, investigate.

You also need to apply the same approach when it comes to vetting new third-party vendors or suppliers. Be selective and deal only with those that comply with industry-standard cybersecurity policies set by regulatory bodies, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST), and Payment Card Industry (PCI).

3. Revisit and revise your corporate security policy

At a minimum, your company security policy must include specific procedures for the prevention and detection of the misuse of information. You should have systems in place and use technology, such as an intrusion detection system (IDS), to plug information leaks.

You need to set clear guidelines on the definitions of misuse, as well as the conduct of internal investigations when incidents of misuse are identified. There should be a clear statement addressing the consequences of the misuse of company assets, including equipment and data. You also have to set limits on access to personnel data, including restrictions on its dissemination and who has access to what information.

Your security policies should also cover individual password protection, device usage, and cyber hygiene responsibilities among employees.

4. Include social engineering in cybersecurity training

You may have the latest anti-malware and antivirus software installed for flagging suspicious emails, but it’s also important to educate your people and arm them from socially engineered attacks to effectively protect your company from cybersecurity threats.

Cybersecurity training must include attack simulations to see how employees react to or handle suspicious requests. Through simulations and tests, you will also be better able to identify specific vulnerabilities and find ways to address these.

Protection Starts at Home

Investing in your company’s security can be a significant expense and can also take time to implement.

However, if you weigh the possible losses your company will face in the event of a cyberattack, these investments you will make to protect your turf from malicious insiders and outsiders will be more than worth it.


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