Insiders with Privileged Accounts Often Access Sensitive Info They Don't Need

Results from BeyondTrust’s “Privilege Gone Wild” report show that privileged users are “out of control.” On a regular basis, employees are granted excessive privileges and access for their particular roles, resulting in unnecessary risks to organizations. Overall, 44% of employees in the survey said that they have access rights that are not necessary to their job.

One of the most startling statistics from this survey reveals that 28% of respondents admitted to having retrieved information not relevant to their job. When asked what information was accessed, nearly one-quarter identified financial reports and almost half provided written responses specifying salary details, HR data and personnel documents.

A majority (80%) of respondents believe that it’s at least somewhat likely that employees access sensitive or confidential data out of curiosity.

“To illustrate just how serious of an issue this is for organizations, one IT employee at a large, well-known critical infrastructure provider admitted to having retrieved financial reports while another IT employee at well well-known professional services firm admitted to retrieving R&D plans, neither of which was relevant to their jobs,” the report noted.

The survey also revealed two-thirds have controls in place to monitor privilege access, yet 54% of those respondents stated that they could circumvent those controls. The statistic illustrates that while current solutions are in place to detect privileged abuse, they’re easily defeated by the average end user.

Insider threats have been shown to account for a large percentage of data breaches. While company and media discussion – and company spend – is focused on external threats from hackers and malware, a Clearswift survey showed that more than half of all security incidents (58%) can be attributed to the wider insider family: employees (33%), ex-employees (7%) and customers, partners or suppliers (18%). And, it’s all exacerbated by anywhere, anytime, any device access and the BYOD phenomenon.

And most concur that it is indeed a growing problem: More than three-quarters of respondents in the BeyondTrust survey said the risk to their organization caused by the insecurity of privileged users will increase over the next few years.

“Allowing any employee unfettered access to non-essential company data is both unnecessary and dangerous and should be an issue that is resolved quickly,” said Brad Hibbert, executive vice president of product strategy at BeyondTrust, in a statement. “The insider threat has always been a vulnerability we take very seriously at BeyondTrust and it’s our goal to help customers combat this growing problem.”

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