Call us: +1 (800) 972-3282

Insider VS Outsider Data Security Threats: Defining And Mitigating Potential Risks

Have you ever thought of how much data we produce and digest on a daily basis these days? Information is all around us: on the news feeds, within commercial breaks between TV show episodes, in shop windows and flyers, on billboards — today it represents a powerful tool for forming an opinion and posing, among other things, the driving force behind improvement, innovation, and competition itself.

For business owners, in particular, data determines the management effectiveness and overall success of an enterprise. How exactly? Once a proper understanding of the current tendencies and demand comes into play, it can get your offer closer to your target audience’s needs, noticeably increasing the ROI of your company, and making it many times easier for you to take control over your positions in the rivalry.

At the same time, however, the consequences related to data loss, or leakage, increase proportionally to the value of that information. This is why, given our today’s customer-centric, digitally-driven world, it is in your immediate interest to do everything possible to mitigate potential risks — and with this article, we’ll instruct you on the best ways to do it.


Expert Opinion In Brief

The question of whether outsiders or insiders pose a greater security risk remains a subject of ongoing discussion. While the Verizon’s
2018 Data Breach Investigations report stated that 73% of cyberattacks were carried out by outsiders (against less than 28% of malfeasance with insiders being involved), the figures reveal the question only from a statistical perspective. On the other hand, the majority of cybersecurity experts come out with insider threats being more serious for they’re always harder to detect.

What’s more, according to the Ponemon Institute’s
2018 Cost of Insider Threats publication, in 2017 the average worth of insider-caused incidents was $8.76 million — which is more than twice compared to the global average outgoings of all breaches recorded the same year… emphasizing that it requires redoubled efforts from business leaders for the data to be properly secured.


Insider Threats

Also known as
Malicious Insider, this menace may be represented by an individual, or group of people, that has legitimate access to an organization’s system, network or data on a regular basis. Insider Threats are mostly associated with former or current employees, contractors, collaborators, or other business partners that are well-aware of where the sensitive information is stored, and how it is protected. With that, as suggested in SecurityIntelligence’s article, Insider Threats can be portioned out in 5 main categories:


  • Nonresponders: Staff members that are immune to security training; not usually ill-intentioned, they still can end up involved in security breaches caused by their negligence, or mere unknowingness. Studies reveal that users who have fallen prey to phishing schemes in the past are more likely to go down that road again.
  • Inadvertent actors: Workers that unintentionally cause breaches due to misjudgments, forgetfulness, or accidents whereas being in general compliant with policy and showing good security behaviors.

For the most part, attackers tend to focus on the two categories described above since they represent an exploitable vulnerability.


  • Insider collusion: A couple of engineers stealing product plans and then quitting to embark on their own competitor enterprise is a good example of insider collusion; also applies to employees recruited by cybercriminals (usually to steal information).
  • Persistent malicious actors: So-called “second streamers”, or workers that seek additional income; instead of performing large data transfers that may raise flags in traditional network monitoring tools, these are more likely to be exfiltrating data in order to avoid detection and maximize the personal benefits.
  • Disgruntled employees: The last category may refer to many behavioral sub-patterns, but is ordinarily focused on frustrated employees — and telic, deliberate sabotage, or intellectual property theft they commit.

It is important to conceive that insider risks include, but aren’t limited to just employees. Those can also be colleagues, suppliers, contractors, or even volunteers that work for the companyю In the end, there is a reason for 92% of IT leaders reported considering their organizations vulnerable to insider threats — as it was shown in the
Insider Threat Report published by Vormetric.


Outsider Threats

Embracing well-funded intruders and hackers, organized cybercrime groups, and government entities, Outsider Threats pose no less serious menace to the organization’s data. Outsider risks are mainly associated with active cyberattacks that imply participating in the network or generating packets — whereas passive ones involve tracking users, or eavesdropping the network.

Cyber Espionage, Cyber Warfare, and Hacktivism are the main motives that rest behind this field of cybercrime. Understanding of tactics and methods used by hackers is particularly crucial for mitigating the potential risks since these attackers are aggressive and persistent. For instance, you should be informed about cybercriminals tending to target corporate data that is disposed of in volume: according to found within
2019 Insider Threat Report: Trends and Analysis published by Fortinet, databases (56%) and corporate file servers (54%) pose the highest risk, followed by endpoints (51%) and mobile devices (50%).

Summarizing: both Internal and External Threats can cost millions to an organization once its sensitive data is exposed to the public, but the overall question is how to defend against two of them equally effectively — and that’s what the second part of the article is about.


If you look up in Google for ways to address these threats, you’ll come across thousands of articles allegedly offering proven step-by-step guidelines to protect your data. But how to determine if these means are sufficient to combat the multitude of possible threats?


Designing All-Purpose Data Protection Plan

The truth, however, lies in a comprehensive, threat-centric approach to data security that provides in-depth visibility, permanent control, and advanced menaces protection regardless of where they are originating. To deploy of this security model, you’ll need to look for technologies that are based on the following fundamentals:


  1. Visibility-driven. When it comes to the assessment of security technologies, depth and breadth of visibility are equally crucial to gain across-the-board insight on environments and risks; for that, security administrators must be capable of seeing everything that is happening. Inquire if the technologies your vendors provide will let you see and gather data from a full spectrum of potential attacks (such as the network fabric, mobile devices, email and web gateways, endpoints, virtual environments, and the cloud). These technologies must also offer depth, which is the ability to correlate the collected data and understand the context in order to make better decisions.


  1. Threat-focused. Modern networks broaden to information like what the data is, and where can it be accessed from. Keeping pace with persistently improving attack vectors might be quite a challenge for security professionals, which, in the long run, can affect the ability to combat Insider and Outsider Threats; policies are essential to diminish the area of attack, but breaches still happen. Look for technologies that allow you to detect, understand, and stop threats once they’ve ‘gotten into the network. Being threat-focused means thinking like an attacker, that is to apply visibility, understand and adapt to changes in the environment, and then evolve reliable protections to stop threats.


  1. Platform-based. Security now requires an integrated system of open and agile platforms which covers all — the network, the cloud, and devices. Look for a security platform that is extensible, scalable, and can be centrally managed for consistent controls. This is particularly crucial for the breaches that often stem from the same vulnerabilities in spite of whether they were caused by insider or outsider’s actions. This requires shifting from the deployment of simple point security instruments that create security gaps to the integration of a platform that provides scalable services and applications which are easy to deploy, monitor, and manage.


Patterns of Risk in Human Behavior: Detecting and Responding

Since Insider Threats are versatile, there’s no single approach, or patch, that would reduce to zero all the risks related to human behavior. Given that, increased awareness of human threats along with tools for behavioral analytics are two most reliable ways for defending against insider menaces within the company.


Start Off With Data Protection

Both negligence and criminal intent pose risks to the most valuable (and hence vulnerable) data in the organization. To ensure transparency, companies need to discover and classify at-risk assets; as stated in the previously mentioned
Fortinet’s report, customer data (62%), intellectual property (56%), and financial information (52%) considered to be the most vulnerable assets. Using continuous monitoring and cognitive analytics should help you protect this sensitive data from all categories of cybersecurity threats.


Adopt Cognitive Analytics

Whereas employees act deeply individually on a network, changes in individual behavior patterns may envision actual risk. Being able to detect changes in subtle patterns of a person’s workplace habits and predict potential risks, advanced AI technologies coupled with behavioral analytics represent outstanding tools used to mitigate all types of Insider Threats.


Mark Risk Scores

Assigning risk scores is another useful feature offered by cognitive analytics applications. Effective in potential insider risks being proactively identified, they’re able to track when employees are at heightened risk for error or criminal behavior — so that an enterprise can respond with tightening access management (or even resort to account quarantine in order to prevent data loss).


Decrease Vulnerabilities

Another forceful way to address basic threats and patch existing gaps in protection is proper security hygiene. Contribute to transparency and data security around critical assets by maintaining continual compliance; withal, be sure to patch and monitor the networks in order to reveal hacked systems, or detect employee threats from the moment they occur — instead of having to fight the consequences a few months later.


Mitigate Internal Threats 

While ransomware, cryptojacking, and other external menaces are among the most widely-discussed security issues, insiders remain the cause of the majority of data breaches. With all the aforementioned, creating adequate protection against insider risks to a large extent lies in comprehension of the enormous variation in human behavior. 

Wrapping it up, there are many measures that you can take to provide your vital data with the highest possible level of security; however, sometimes it’s just impossible to take control of everything at once — and that’s when a data loss may take place.

In case that happened, you can rely on SalvageData’s competence and experience! Just contact us for a free consultation on your case no matter what was it caused by — and let the professionals take care of the rest.