Insider threats are still the number one corporate data security risk

Although there's greater awareness of the risks that insiders pose to information security, many companies still struggle with how to control them.

The findings of a new report by defence systems and cyber security company Raytheon, show that people with access to privileged data such as health care records, sensitive company information, intellectual property or personal records frequently put that information at risk.

The report, Privilege User Abuse & The Insider Threat, finds that many individuals with the highest level of network access in organisations believe it empowers them to access all the information they can view. But often the access granted to them goes beyond the individuals' roles and responsibilities and 65 per cent of respondents said that curiosity rather than the necessity of their job drove them to access sensitive data.

"The results of this survey should serve as a wake up call to every executive with responsibility for protecting company or customer sensitive data," says Jack Harrington, vice president of Cybersecurity and Special Missions at Raytheon Intelligence Information and Services. "The problem is acutely understood, the solutions are not".

Key findings of the report include that 88 per cent of organisations recognise insider threats as cause for concern but have difficulty in identifying specific threats. Of those surveyed 69 per cent say that their security tools didn't provide enough information to determine the intent of incidents and 59 per cent say they receive too many false positives.

There is increased concern about the use of social engineering techniques with 47 per cent saying that malicious insiders could use them to obtain someone else’s access rights. 45 per cent say it's likely that outsiders could target privileged users to obtain their access.

Of the data most at risk, whilst 59 per cent worry about general business information, 49 per cent say that customer data may be at risk from privileged user access. Some 57 per cent of organisations don’t carry out background checks before issuing elevated credentials.

Whilst 88 per cent of those surveyed recognised security as a top priority only 40 per cent had a budget to invest in technology to combat insider threats.

"The goal of this survey is to not only share current insider threat statistics but to educate organisations on their privileged users and the threats and attacks that can happen because of the access they own," says Harrington.

"If a privileged user wants to do bad things, their elevated access to the company network makes it easier for them. But even a well-intentioned, seasoned, privileged user poses high risks because they are high-value targets to corporate 'hacktivists' and persistent adversaries eager to penetrate a company’s defenses".

You can sign up for a full copy of the report on the Raytheon website or there's a webcast to discuss the findings scheduled to take place on June 10.