A new report says that insider threats – caused by current and departing employees – expose companies to breaches and put corporate data at risk.
The 2019 Global Data Exposure Report by Code42 also questions whether the right data security solutions are being funded and deployed to stop insider threats and asserts that legacy data loss prevention solutions fall short in getting the job done.

Recognizing that employees are the power behind any organization, companies are increasingly implementing strategies for collaboration to make information sharing easier than ever. Unfortunately, some organizations have not put in appropriate detection and response data security controls, and instead simply trust employees to keep data safe. However, this trust is frequently abused. The study showed that employees take more risks with data than employers think, which leaves organizations open to insider threat. 

  • Rather than sticking to company-provided file sharing and collaboration tools, one in three (31%) business decision-makers also use social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, 37% use WhatsApp and 43% use personal email to send files and collaborate with their colleagues.
  • Over three-quarters (78%) of CSOs and 65% of CEOs admit to clicking on a link they should not have, showing that no level of employee is immune to lapses in judgement.
  • These types of risk-based actions are why half of the data breaches that companies admitted to experiencing in the previous 18 months have been caused by employees, according to both information security leaders and business decision-makers (50% and 53% respectively).

“Organizations are overlooking the most harmful data security threat: their own employees. While security leaders likely are aware of the problem, they may not grasp the sheer magnitude of it. And most have fallen behind in effectively detecting and responding to insider threats,” said Joe Payne, Code42 president and CEO. “The brutal truth is employees take data. Companies that don’t have or underinvest in an insider threat program or rely on legacy data loss prevention solutions, are feeling the pain and winding up in headlines. Security leaders must find a better way to protect sensitive company data and address threats coming from within their own walls.”

While most employees try to leave their jobs on a positive note, chances are they are taking more than just memories when they leave; they’re also pocketing proprietary data – negatively impacting their former colleagues. Equally as concerning as departing employees are incoming employees who bring data from their prior organizations with them. The study found:

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of survey respondents admit to bringing data from past employers to their new jobs.
  • What’s more, most employees today feel entitled to personal ownership over their work. In fact, a large majority of information security leaders (72%) agree: “It’s not just corporate data, it’s my work – and my ideas.”

Information security leaders know their data is at risk. While traditional prevention solutions are widespread, these solutions aren’t proving effective in protecting valuable data, such as customer lists and source code, from insider threats. The Global Data Exposure Report showed:

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of organizations say they were breached due to an insider threat and confirm they had a prevention solution in place at the time of the breach.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of information security leaders – including those with traditional data loss prevention (DLP) – believe that prevention strategies and solutions are not enough to stop insider threat.

“We’re seeing companies empower their employees without the proper security programs in place, leaving companies in a heightened state of risk,” said Jadee Hanson, CISO and vice president of information systems of Code42. “In addition to enforcing awareness trainings, implementing data loss protection technologies and adding data protection measures to on- and off-boarding processes, organizations should not delay in launching transparent, cross-functional insider threat programs. Insider threats are real. Failing to act will only result in increasingly catastrophic data loss and breaches.”