Why Privileged Users Are a Major Security Risk

It’s no secret that organizations face a growing array of cyber-security threats. What’s more, the potential impact from malware is a mounting concern. What is often overlooked in today’s deteriorating security environment is the role of employees and others inside the enterprise.

According to a newly released report from security vendor Bitglass, Spies in the Enterprise, one-third of organizations have experienced data leakage as a result of an insider negligence or attack while 74 percent say they are vulnerable to these threats.

Making matters worse, a majority of respondents (56 percent) believe that insider leaks have increased over the last year.

Among the key areas of concern: 71 percent of cyber-security professionals said that inadvertent leaks result from risky unsanctioned app usage, including unintended external sharing and the use of unsecured mobile devices. Negligence (68 percent) and malicious insiders (61 percent) are also core areas of concern for executives.

A key area of concern is privileged users. Respondents indicated that this user group, more than any other, represents the greatest security risk. More than 60 percent of organizations voiced concerns about privileged users. Collaboration tools (44 percent) and the cloud (54 percent) were also viewed as serious insider threat risks.

The report also found that clouds and mobile are forcing IT to rethink detection and prevention. Cybersecurity professionals agreed that lack of employee training (62 percent), insufficient data protection solutions (57 percent), more devices with access to sensitive data (54 percent) and more data leaving the network perimeter (48 percent) contribute to insider leaks.

Overall, the report surveyed over 500 cyber-security professionals globally.

Another study from Ponemon Institute and Fasoo earlier this year presented similar results. Among other things, it found that 68 percent do not know where their confidential information resides and 61 percent indicated that their organizations lack visibility into confidential documents and files used and/or shared among employees.

How can CIOs and other enterprise leaders address this problem? It all comes down to a handful of essential practices. It’s critical to create and assign centralized accountability; assess sharing practices inside and outside the organization; conduct regular audits; create training and education programs for employees; develop better policies; and use technology that delivers identity management, self-secures data and enforces policies.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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