The FBI caught David Yen Lee at his home before he could depart for the airport where his flight was waiting. The hard drives the FBI sought were in his possession. On those drives were the trade secrets of a very well-known USA-based paint company, and David had purchased a one-way ticket to Shanghai, China where he intended to illegally hand over those trade secrets to Nippon Paint. He served over a year in prison for his crime.
Today’s cybercriminals come at your company from many angles. Their motivations are often more practical than many law-abiding citizens would expect:
Motives such as these change the way cybercriminals operate. They are organized. They share information amongst each other. They are often well-funded. These things make them more dangerous. In the example above, David Yen Lee is an internal cybercriminal. He is one of your employees.
This is a difficult topic. While it’s true that internal employees are responsible for a large number of cybersecurity breaches, it’s also true that most of these are unintentional. They are a result of good people doing something they shouldn’t, either out of ignorance or because a cybercriminal tricked them into doing it (if you saw the movie Catch Me if You Can this is Frank Abagnale’s social-engineering behavior). Statistics on the exact percentage of “insider” cyber breaches that are deliberate vs. inadvertent vary widely, but the opinion can be held that the vast majority of insider threats are not malicious. No matter which statistic you believe, everyone agrees that many insider threats would have been prevented if the insider had understood how his or her behavior allowed a breach to occur. It’s easy to see why a good cybersecurity awareness training program is so important to the success of your company.
With that being said, there is a risk of an employee with malicious intent to breach your sensitive data. Whether it be to share sensitive details to a competitor, profit from your data, or a disgruntled employee looking to carry out revenge against your company. If your company falls victim of a malicious-intentioned employee, finding out what happened is even more difficult because they often have high level system privileges that allow them to erase their tracks.
If your company is one of the unlucky ones where an insider deliberately caused a security breach, then you are automatically in the highest risk category of those susceptible to cybercrime. The keys to mitigate this risk are simple:
Educate Your Employees
Know your People
Guard your most sensitive data
Ensure that you have forensics available to you
In short, your employees are your most valuable asset, but can also be your greatest liability. They need to be trained on best practices to keep your data safe, and they also need to understand that you have forensic systems in place that will likely catch them if they attempt to access data they should not. A “trust but verify” approach regarding employee access to your critical intellectual property is an important part of your company’s cybersecurity program.
© TCE Strategy, 2022