The insider threat is growing

Vormetric and Ovum surveyed more than 500 IT decision-makers at mid and large size organizations in the UK, France and Germany. They found that only nine percent of businesses feel safe from insider threats, with nearly half of UK based respondents (42 percent) acknowledging that it is “privileged users’ (system administrators, database administrators, network administrators, etc.) that pose the biggest risk to their organization.

Insider threats are no longer only traditional insiders with legitimate access rights who abuse their positions to steal data for personal gain. Privileged users who maintain systems and networks are now an additional concern, as their roles typically require access to all data accessible from systems to perform their work.

A third insider threat concern is from the outside-in, with cybercriminals actively seeking to compromise insider accounts (focusing most heavily on privileged users) in order to infiltrate systems and steal data using their credentials.

“Almost half of European organizations believe that insider threats are now more difficult to detect, with senior IT managers being very worried about the things their own users can do with corporate data,” said Andrew Kellett, Principal Analyst at Ovum, the analyst firm which conducted the study. “This risk is compounded by the threat by cyber attacks that are targeting user accounts – something that is not going completely unrecognized as 30 percent of organizations cite Advanced Persistent Threats as a primary driver for ramping-up data breach defenses.”

Key findings include:

  • Only nine percent of all organizations surveyed feel safe from insider threats and only six percent of UK organizations feel safe
  • 47 percent of organizations now find it harder to detect insider threat incidents than in 2012
  • Controlling access to data poses a broad threat for organizations. For some, non-technical employees with legitimate access to sensitive data and IT assets are the biggest risk (49 percent), while for others even executive management such as the CFO or CEO are the top risk (29 percent)
  • Cloud implementations are raising security issues, with the lack of visibility into security measures around cloud-hosted data representing a concern for 62 percent of businesses
  • Big data also poses a risk, with over half (53 percent) of organizations being concerned over the security of big data reports that may contain sensitive data
  • There is some good news: organizations are taking steps to address insider threats, with 66 percent planning to increase IT security budgets as a direct response to this risk.

“Enterprises grow their use of cloud computing to take advantage of the business flexibility and financial advantages it brings,” said Daniele Catteddu, Managing Director EMEA for Cloud Security Alliance. “The research shows that they feel that there are additional security risks from this growth, and details how cloud providers can enhance their offerings to better meet enterprise security needs for offsetting insider threats.”

“Clearly, compliance requirements, privacy regulations and ongoing data breaches are having a strong effect on organizations,” said Stewart Room partner in Field Fisher Waterhouse’s Technology and Outsourcing Group. “With 66 percent planning to expand IT security spending to offset insider threats, and the challenges they are seeing with protecting data within cloud, mobile and big data environments, enterprises are seeing that their security posture needs to be updated, and are taking steps to do so.”

And, organisations are beginning to recognise that encryption is the most effective technology in preventing insider threats, with the largest proportion of organisations (38 percent) citing it as the single most important security measure.

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