While 2020 has been a year that challenged federal agencies to be adaptable, it is time agencies start thinking about next year and identifying their top priorities. Security is a priority amongst agencies, but threat actors have shifted from high-volume, automated attacks to low-volume, highly targeted and focused attacks. These targeted attacks on agency workers attest that insider threats should be a top priority amongst agencies in the coming year. Insider threats have continued to grow and affect agencies in a negative way.
In 2021, managing insider threats should be a top priority for any federal agency. According to insider threat expert, Proofpoint’s Nick Hensley, in this age of remote work, “people are your new security perimeter.” Not only does this include your employees he explained, but “it also includes contractors, partners that you work with, suppliers, and customers. They’re all interacting with the same systems.”
With the remote work environment here to stay, federal agencies need to prioritize insider threat management. In the last year alone, a recent report detailed that threat researchers have observed that:
- 85 percent of organizations experienced at least one targeted password attack, typically intelligent brute force attacks.
- 45 percent of organizations experienced at least one successful breach, where an account is confirmed to be acting in malicious ways, such as sending malicious emails or performing mass downloading of files.
- 6 percent of organizations have a compromised VIP, which means the people who are compromised are typically not executives or those you might think are high-value targets.
- On average, 13 compromised accounts per organization have been breached, so in instances where there are breaches, it’s more than one account.
Hensley added that “Proofpoint Threat Researchers consistently confirm that over 99 percent of cyber attacks are human activated, which means they need a human being to activate the attack by opening a file, clicking a link, or being tricked into taking some other type of action.” This data leaves little doubt as to why agencies must turn their attention to mitigating insider threats.
There’s ample evidence that these days people have become the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. And while these attacks may be lower in volume, they are highly targeted and tend to be more successful. As we head into 2021 and as remote work continues to be the norm for federal agencies, it’s vital that agencies make insider threats a top priority. To solve today’s security challenges agencies must start to take a people-centric approach to cyber security. By doing so, federal agencies will be able to build trust, avoid monetary loss, and protect their valuable information.