The leading cause of insider threats? Employee negligence

Employee negligence, which may be caused by multitasking and working long hours, can result in insider threats and cost companies millions of dollars each year. It can cost a U.S. company as much as $1.5 million and Germany companies €1.6 million in time wasted responding to security incidents caused by human error, according to the Ponemon Institute.


The survey also revealed that 70 percent of U.S. survey respondents and 64 percent of German respondents report that more security incidents are caused by unintentional mistakes than intentional and/or malicious acts.

While there are similarities in how U.S. and German organizations perceive insider threats, there are also clear cultural differences in the causes of unintentional insider risk. German respondents are more likely to agree that their organizations do not have the necessary safeguards in place to protect against careless employees (54 percent). U.S. respondents reported that employees are not properly trained to follow data security policies (60 percent) and that senior executives do not consider data security a priority (50 percent).

“Maliciousness is tagged as the leading cause in insider threat discussions, but the impact of negligence cannot be overlooked,” said Ed Hammersla, president of Raytheon|Websense. “As the Ponemon study reveals, security incidents are caused by negligence which leads to a decrease in IT productivity. Workplace stress, multitasking, long hours and a lack of resources and budget are the biggest contributors to employee negligence. Having programs in place that include a mixture of training, policy and technology are vital to addressing insider threats before they become a major issue.”


Additional key findings include:

  • Unintentional employee negligence severely diminishes the productivity of the IT function according to 73 percent of U.S. respondents and 67 percent of German respondents.
  • Long hours and multitasking are red flags for risk. Multitaskers are more likely to be careless or negligent according to 79 percent of U.S. respondents and 81 percent of German respondents.
  • German respondents are more likely to limit practices that can create unintentional risk (55 percent), while their American counterparts prefer to monitor employees’ behavior (63 percent).
  • In both the U.S. and Germany, IT security practitioners spend an average of almost three hours each day dealing with the security risks caused by employee mistakes or negligence.
  • Both German and U.S. respondents report ordinary users, contractors or third-parties pose the biggest threat to security.