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When a Data Breach Is an Inside Job

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While companies can spend millions on their IT security systems to prevent cyberattacks and other common security risks, they may be fighting a losing battle if their worst enemy already has the password and unrestricted access to their systems. While breaches and other security events from external causes are difficult to detect, tracking insider attacks might be an even bigger obstacle. A new report about insider threats in organizations brings to light the challenge of controlling for security risks that are due to malicious intentions or mistakes.

The majority of businesses in the U.S., Latin America and Europe said they did not have the means to fend off an insider threat, according to a survey by IT security firm SpectorSoft. Even worse, 59% of IT professionals said their employers did not have the ability to find threats that lurk within their company.

With the wealth of data – customer information, trade secrets and intellectual property – stored in top corporations and government agencies, insiders might hope to take advantage of their ease of access to valuable information.

Insider misuse accounted for 8% of all breaches in 2013, and some of the biggest security risks surrounding insider threats include privilege abuse and unapproved hardware, according to the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Insider Breaches & Concerns of Enterprise Security

In June, telecom giant AT&T reported a breach that may have compromised the personal information of an undetermined number of customers and the motives behind the perpetrators of the breach were shocking, according to an analysis by eWeek. The employees working for a vendor for AT&T allegedly wanted to hack into locked phones sold by the company in order to sell them to willing buyers on the market.

“It makes one wonder what AT&T and other vendors are doing to detect and prevent data leakage,” Lucas Zaichkowsky, enterprise defense architect at AccessData, told eWeek.

Almost half of the respondents in the SpectorSoft survey said their top priority was detecting insider threats, as they focused on a security strategy that is centered on prevention.

Companies need to improve on restricting data access to personnel, handling data securely and ensuring safe email use.

“With so many data breaches happening, C-level executives are coming to the realization that their jobs could be on the line if company data isn’t protected,” Rob Williams, chief marketing officer at SpectorSoft, said in a statement. “Proper defense must include a comprehensive security solution, and with humans involved, education is just as key. The market is ripe for a new approach to internal security.”

Inside jobs aren’t just a concern for businesses, they’re also a concern for consumers. If an employee of a business with your personally identifying information (Social Security numbers, credit card data, etc.) sells that to identity thieves, you could be in danger of unauthorized charges and fraud. You should regularly monitor your bank accounts regularly for signs of fraud. Also, you may want to monitor your credit. Any unexpected, large change in your credit scores could signal identity theft, and you should pull your credit reports (you can get free copies once a year) to confirm. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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