What is Insider Risk?


In today’s digital age, organisations have access to a vast amount of sensitive data, from customer information to trade secrets. Protecting this data is a critical task, but sometimes, the biggest threat can come from within the organisation. This is known as insider risk.

Defining What is Insider Risk

Insider Risk is a significant threat to an organisation’s well-being, occurring when insiders like employees, contractors, or others with privileged access pose potential hazards. These risks are not just limited to intentional acts of data breach or theft of intellectual property. Even seemingly innocuous actions, such as unintentional data leaks, can put an organisation and its members at considerable risk. It’s a multifaceted issue that can have severe implications on a company’s systems, reputation, and overall health. Below you will find a table visualising the number of intentional versus unintentional Insiders.

Infographic Unintentional Insider versus Intentional Insider

Insider risk is a significant concern for businesses of all sizes, as it can lead to reputational damage, financial loss, and legal liability. In some cases, this can even result in the collapse of an organisation. See most recent examples here.

There are several factors that can contribute to insider threats, including lack of employee training and awareness, disgruntled employees, and inadequate security protocols. One example is a disgruntled employee who intentionally steals trade secrets or customer data to sell to a competitor or to use for personal gain. 

5 Signs You May Have Insider Risk Vulnerabilities:

The threat of Insider Risk is not always apparent, and vulnerabilities can often go unnoticed until it’s too late. In the infographic, we will take a closer look at five common signs that your organisation may be exposed to Insider Risk

Taking Action:

Recognising these signs is the first step in protecting your organisation from Insider Risk. Implementing comprehensive security measures, regular training, and a culture of vigilance can transform these vulnerabilities into strengths. By understanding and addressing these common signs, you can create a more secure and resilient environment for your organisation.

5 Signs Insider Risk Vulnerabilities Infographic (2)

Dealing with Insider Risks in Your Organisation?

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The Need for a holistic approach to mitigating threats

To mitigate the risk of insider threats, organisations must adopt a holistic approach that includes repeated employee training and a solid insider risk management programme. To develop a comprehensive management programme, it’s advisable to begin with an assessment of the current risk status of the organisation.

An assessment will provide insights into the potential threats an organisation is facing, its current vulnerabilities and the effectiveness of its existing countermeasures. This is an essential step to ensure that organisations can respond quickly and effectively in the event of an insider threat.

In conclusion, insider risk is a critical concern for organisations of all sizes, and it is vital to adopt a holistic approach to mitigate this risk. While organisations may invest in sophisticated security systems to protect their data from external threats, insider risk can sometimes be overlooked.

By understanding the potential threats, current vulnerabilities, and existing countermeasures through a comprehensive assessment, organisations can develop effective countermeasures and respond quickly and efficiently in the event of an insider threat. Ultimately, proactive management is critical to protecting an organisation’s reputation, finances, and long-term success in today’s digital age.

Insider Threat vs. Insider Risk: Drawing the Line

While both terms might seem interchangeable, understanding their nuances is vital for an effective strategy.

Insider Risk:

  • Refers to anyone handling an organisation’s data, from top executives to junior staff, including external partners. Their potential to compromise data security often stems from unintentional actions or choices made for operational efficiency.

Insider Threat:

  • Represents insiders with malicious intent. Their actions are deliberate, aiming to steal sensitive information or harm the organisational infrastructure.

Why the Distinction Matters: Differentiating allows organisations to adopt targeted interventions. Addressing insider risks often revolves around training to minimise human error, whereas countering insider threats requires advanced monitoring and detection systems.

At Signpost Six, our expertise spans both areas. We assist organisations in discerning these differences and crafting solutions tailored to each challenge. Prioritising both risks and threats fosters a robust cybersecurity framework, safeguarding your organisation’s digital assets.

Terminology within the Corporate Sphere: Insider Risk or Something More Neutral?

Within the corporate landscape, the choice of words is paramount. Terms such as ‘Insider Risk’ or ‘Insider Threat’ can, unintentionally, carry accusatory undertones, suggesting fault with internal staff. Recognising the potential negative implications of such language, many organisations opt for gentler, more neutral terms. This move isn’t just about semantics; it’s about nurturing trust and crafting a space where employees don’t feel singled out but rather, appreciate the broader objective of data protection.

Alternative phrases that are often preferred include ‘Internal Data Management’, ‘Internal Data Security Protocols’, or ‘Team-Centric Risk Analysis’. These terminologies underscore a collective endeavour, spotlighting the shared responsibility of both leadership and staff in protecting a company’s assets.

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