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Curbing Insider Insecurity

Data has become an important asset to businesses today. If there is a breach in a company’s data security, depending on their magnanimity and the size of the breach, they can lose up to millions or billions of dollars.

Typical strategies to combat this menace include having solid anti-virus and anti-malware software in place, alongside firewalls and so on. However, while these can keep risks of external attacks to a minimum, they are helpless in the face of internal threats.

It is no longer news that employees constitute the biggest data security risk. This is not only due to possible insider attacks, but also mostly to ignorant practices that expose the company’s data to criminals.

Many companies spend so much on keeping external threats out, but ignore the roles that employees could play. In many external attacks, criminals try to either exploit a loophole intrinsic to the security system or gain access through a worker’s unwitting actions. Therefore, no company is completely safe if its employees are not aware of what processes to take to keep the company’s data far away from the prying eyes of crooks. In many ways, organizations can educate their workforce in this regard.

Devices/Internet Usage Habits
The first step to combating data insecurity among employees is to make them alert to the risks involved in their usage of devices and the internet. Cyber-criminals often weaponize ignorance in their attacks. Therefore, awareness is the most basic way to ensure safety. Some of the ways in which a company can ensure this include the following:

  • Password Management: Passwords are used to restrict the availability of certain information. If anything requires one, the password should be strong enough. Using weak passwords such as common words and phrases, short passwords, easily recognizable patterns (123456, abcedef) is the fastest way to expose yourself to a hack. However, strong passwords may themselves not be enough guarantee of security and that is where multi-factor authentication comes in. Every worker should have this enabled for additional security. In addition, one should use separate passwords for different accounts so that if peradventure, one password becomes exposed, the risk would not be too high.
  • Email Security: Phishing is a primary way by which hackers can remotely gain access to a system. Workers should be taught to recognize suspicious emails and links and discard them right away. Opening the emails or clicking the links is, in many cases, enough for the hacker. Considering that the majority of office communication (internally and externally) occurs via emails, people must exercise a lot of vigilance in this regard.
  • Internet Practices: Employees should be taught to be careful of sites they visit, files they download and links they click online. This is even more so important because most people access personal and work accounts via the same devices. Therefore, if a device is breached, all information on it comes under risk.

Internet Connection
Apart from typical employee practices, the organization itself should provide secure connections through which workers should access the internet. This is usually done by installing a firewall to restrict the kinds of sites that connected devices can access or by the company having a secure Wi-Fi connection.

Public Wi-Fi is generally unsafe and no person who is conscious of their security accesses their accounts using public Wi-Fi. Even if that somehow becomes absolutely necessary, then a VPN (Virtual Private Network) comes in handy.

Attackers know how to access systems remotely through the internet and it is up to the company to not give them any leeway at all, no matter how little. Establishing an office-wide secure connection would be impossible when your employees work remotely and data has to cross-office borders. However, it would still help to educate them on best practices to access the internet.

Employee Access to Data
As mentioned above, employees pose the greatest risk to data security. Their actions, and inactions, can cost your company a lot. To reduce the risk of this happening, it is often better to restrict the access of each employee to only the information they need. This particularly helps stall, though only to some extent, insider attacks.

Apart from that, it would also mean that an attacker who broke into an employee’s (especially lower-level workers) accounts or devices would still lack access to most of the sensitive, important information of the company. Such an account or device could, therefore, be isolated and restored easily.

In addition to that, there should be a way to revoke remotely and instantly an employee’s access to their account or devices upon the suspicion of any unusual activity.

In conclusion, every employee (from the most senior to the most junior) needs to be properly enlightened about these in order to forestall an attack on the company’s sensitive information. Threats keep getting more sophisticated and so the workforce should have regular security awareness training that would help ensure a security culture in the workplace.

In cybersecurity, there is no stone or pebble, that should be left unturned. Criminals can go to unthinkable lengths to exploit the smallest of loopholes. However, implementing these actions guarantees greater levels of security.

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