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Cybersecurity is a top concern for modern organizations in the digital age. Technological advancements require enhanced security measures to keep businesses and individuals safe.

While many organizations will prioritize cybersecurity for external security threats, it’s not as common for them to consider how internal threats can also cause significant damage. What motivates people to pose insider threats in a modern organization?

Continue reading to learn about the most common motivations for insider threats and useful prevention tactics to protect your organization.

The Importance of Insider Threat Prevention
People with legitimate access to sensitive information within your organization, whether a former or current employee, contractor, business associate, or executive, can pose cybersecurity risks known as insider threats.

Insider threats are often challenging to detect and can go unnoticed for months or even years. For instance, it’s common to think of an insider threat as a disgruntled employee seeking revenge on their superiors for letting them go. However, insider threats are more complex than that and can even be unintentional or due to negligence.

Unintentional insider threats can lead to large breaches, which cause damage, potential data loss, and general instability for a business. Research suggests that in 50% of insider threat cases, the damage amounted to over $1 million, an expense no company wants to incur.
The Most Common Motivations for Insider Threats
Below are some of the most common insider threat motivations based on the two primary types of insider threat.

Malicious Insider Threat Motivations

1. Financially Based
It’s no secret that money is a huge motivator for insiders. Employees or other associates experiencing financial hardship may exploit their position for financial gain.

Insiders may feel driven to execute an attack if they are paid a low wage, lack critical benefits, or owe money to another party.

2. Emotionally Based
Unengaged, bored, depressed, or angry employees may feel motivated to attack their organization. Because emotions can be strong sometimes, these employees are at a high risk of acting out maliciously.

Employees may receive a poor performance review, fight with their superiors, or get laid off, which are all examples of what can motivate an insider.

3. Politically Based
While state-sponsored insider threats are not that common, there are instances where employees will execute politically motivated cyberattacks. This type of motivation is also linked with corporate espionage, which can also be damaging, especially if employees share company trade secrets or other information.

Unintentional Insider Threat Motivations
1. Lack of Knowledge
Some insiders may not be tech-savvy or have the skills necessary to follow the best cybersecurity practices. This lack of knowledge can increase an employee’s risk of becoming a threat to the organization.

For example, employees might think it’s safe to use public Wi-Fi, but it can create security vulnerabilities. They do this unintentionally, but their negligence may create more risks for companies.

2. Misplaced or Misused Technology
With remote-work models taking the business world by storm, it’s no surprise that some employees will misplace their technology, whether it’s a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If employees misplace, misuse, or leave a company device unattended, it can leave the company vulnerable. Careless employees can easily become insider threats.

3. Convenience or Ease of Use
In the digital world, convenience and ease of use are important factors when conducting business. If a company implements technical or robust cybersecurity policies, an uneducated employee may circumvent them and put the organization at risk of a breach.

Prevention Tactics for Common Insider Threat Motivations

How can your company improve its insider threat prevention tactics with all of these insider threat motivations in mind? Below, we’ll explore some basic strategies that can help prevent potential insider threats:

● Coordinate HR and IT departments: HR and IT professionals should work together to identify employees who pose threats to the company. If an employee is laid off, the IT team must be aware of the change so they can remove their access to anything on the corporate network. Organizations should consider bridging the gap between HR and IT to reduce insider threat risks.

● Prioritize employee cybersecurity training: Educate employees about critical cybersecurity practices they should adopt. It’s also important to encourage team members to anonymously report any suspicious peer interactions that could become a more serious threat.

● Use digital cybersecurity solutions: There are many cybersecurity solutions on the market worth investing in. For example, user behavior analytics (UBA) solutions can help with insider threat prevention.

● Have an incident response plan: Because an insider threat can still harm your company, it’s crucial to formulate an incident response plan to reduce downtime and contain any damage.
Minimize the Risks of Insider Threats

Identifying the motivations behind insider threats can help organizations detect and contain threats before they turn into full-blown cybersecurity incidents. Use the information above to improve your insider threat mitigation strategies and ensure your organization is protected.