Insider Attacks Rise, Though Some Businesses Unaware of Risk

The SpectorSoft report found fewer than half of organizations have appropriate controls to prevent insider attacks.

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A majority (62 percent) of security professionals say insider threats have become more frequent in the last 12 months, but only 34 percent expect additional budget to address the problem, according to a report from security specialist SpectorSoft.

The report also found fewer than 50 percent of organizations have appropriate controls to prevent insider attacks, with privileged users, such as managers with access to sensitive information, posing the biggest insider threat to organizations (59 percent).

Less than a quarter (22 percent) of respondents saw no rise in insider attacks over the last 12 months, and 45 percent were unsure if they had been attacked or not.

"Any security related question that is met with an 'I don't know' answer means there is danger," Mike Tierney, chief operating officer of SpectorSoft, told eWEEK. "It's not surprising that these respondents are unsure. Insider threats are difficult to detect, and without focused detection efforts, there will continue to be a blind spot when it comes to the threats posed by insiders. And these threats are very real, very serious and potentially very damaging."

Tierney said insider threats are more difficult to detect for a couple of reasons, as the overwhelming majority of security budgets and efforts are directed at defending the perimeter.

"Defending the perimeter is absolutely necessary, but has little if any impact on security against an insider attack – an attack launched by someone who is already inside the perimeter," he explained. "Second, our mentality is largely focused on preventing attacks. How do we prevent someone who has the keys to the house, and the alarm code, from coming inside and taking things when we aren't home? You don't."

However, Tierney noted managers can monitor users’ activity and behavior when they are in their own house, and by doing so, detect when that activity or behavior deviates from the norm. This in turn enables a proper response and mitigation for insider threats, Tierney said.

"Many times the budget ask for insider threat programs is incremental – on top of the monies being spent on perimeter defense and other common line items," Tierney said. "So there is a challenge in finding the money. A better approach might be to look back at all of the problems security had to deal with and assess what percentage of them came from the inside versus the outside. Many organizations find that more incidents are caused by negligent or malicious insiders; that can lead to a reallocation of spend to better address the problems."