Typically “insider threats” are defined as individuals with malicious intent: the employee who was passed over for a promotion, the developer who insists that code she was paid to develop belongs to her, the contractor who installs malware on the POS system, and so forth. However, there is another group of potential insider threats. These individuals may not have malicious intent and may be quite loyal to the company, its strategy, and its future success.
They are in a position of trust within the enterprise. From a cyber security perspective, however, the unfettered access these individuals have to some or all of the company’s sensitive cyber assets is cause for concern. Consequently, these individuals are in what may be defined as “high-risk” positions. Not that the company has a reason to be concerned about the intent, motives, or loyalty of these individuals under normal circumstances.
However, it is possible that the access these people have to high-value and critical assets may be used in ways other than for the intended company purposes.
Trusted insiders may use their access to satisfy their curiosity. Imposters may steal their authentication credentials. It may even be possible that these people may be placed under excessive duress – such as from a credible threat of physical harm against family members. Even if individuals in high-risk positions remained loyal and dedicated to the company, attackers could leverage their privileged access such that the company could be made to suffer irreparable harm.
Furthermore, malicious intent is not the root of insider threats. Consider, companies necessarily need some individuals with elevated system access to perform certain roles. The individuals in these high-risk positions are necessarily entrusted with access to valuable cyber assets – and most of these individuals perform their regular duties with loyalty and dedication to the company.
Surprisingly, though, these same people through simple negligence cause 68% of insider incidences. Intent is not the root of insider threats – authenticated access to assets is.