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Office Security Plan: How to Protect Your Workplace Against Insider Attacks

Posted May 10, 2016 by Lynn Brown


A report shows that 89% of organisations are “vulnerable to insider attacks”. According to the 2015 Vormetric Insider Threat Report, only 11% of respondents (consisting of over 800 global IT decision makers) felt that their organisations were safe.  

At the same time, the 2016 Data Protection & Breach Readiness Guide by Online Trust Alliance (OTA) found that nearly 1/3 of data security incidents in the first half of 2015 were caused by an insider - by accident or by malicious intent. Safeguarding against incidents caused by insiders is now a vital part of any office security plan.  

Here’s what every organisation needs to know about how to use effective data management to prevent insider attacks:

Panama data breach sets the tone

Security experts now speculate that an insider was involved in the Panama Papers leak, which exposed 11.5 million records and is one of the largest data breaches ever.

But the US organisation SANS Institute reported that out of 770 businesses that took part in a recent study, 32% had no security measures in place against insider threats.

According to OTA, 91% of data breaches that occurred from January to August last year could have been prevented with controls such as patching a server, encrypting data, or ensuring the mobile workforce doesn’t lose their laptops.

'New' insiders

While an insider threat is generally regarded as a threat that comes from someone within the organisation, the definition has expanded to include ‘virtual’ insiders (outsiders who have stolen user credentials), third-party service providers, and business partners with inappropriate access rights. Organisations are urged to define security requirements with suppliers, and conduct due diligence with new, existing, and departing employees.

Privilege creep  

Privilege creep is when users over time gain access rights beyond their requirements. According to Vormetric, only 58% of organisations are able to control privileged users. What's best? Protect the most sensitive information with several levels of security including passwords, multi-factor authentication and encryption.

Spotting typical insiders

Characteristics of typical insider fraudsters include behaviour changes such as pulling up data at odd times, general unhappiness with their job, and not taking holidays. Monitor employee activity on corporate networks, and introduce a workplace ‘tips’ line.   

Targeted industries

Any organisation that handles clients’ sensitive information (think law firms and financial institutions) should be on high alert. International law firms are now a target for hackers.   

Data management

All organisations are encouraged to improve data management to identify where confidential information is stored, who can access it, and whether there are sufficient safeguarding controls. There should be a data breach response plan too. Educate employees about appropriate handling and protection. Embed secure workplace processes that extend to the mobile devices too.

Manage old records

Almost 40 years of confidential information was obtained from the internal database of the law firm in the Panama Papers leak. Review how old records are safeguarded. Take digitised records offline, and place in secure storage. Don’t collect information you don’t need, and purge information that doesn’t need to be retained. The safest way to secure information when it is no longer needed is to destroy it in a secure manner. Partner with a document destruction company for secure destruction of digital and paper documents.

The importance of data security best practices in the workplace has never been more important.

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