New analysis has found that over the last three years, 35% of all major data breaches were caused by negligent or malicious employees, costing the UK-based organisations involved almost £500,000 in fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
This study, carried out by global security software company Avecto, looked at all the breaches between August 2015 and January 2018, where the ICO issued fines for ‘failing to take appropriate technical and organisational measures against the unauthorised processing of personal data’.
Examples of data breaches directly caused by insiders at the organisations involved include negligent staff members sending emails containing personal data to the wrong people, as well as employee laptops being lost or stolen when taken out of the office. Another data breach which highlighted failed processes and resulted in a fine of £180,000 occurred when a server that was meant to be locked in a secure cupboard and contained a significant amount of sensitive information, was stolen.
In another instance, a malicious insider was able to access a data server room and steal information from a device, including 59,592 customer names, addresses, bank account and sort code numbers.
Andrew Avanessian, Chief Operating Officer at Avecto, said: “Strict company processes and staff training can’t be relied upon when it comes to safeguarding company devices and protecting sensitive data. Although both are important elements of a security strategy, people will make mistakes and can be easily duped into initiating malicious activity, meaning that employees are always going to be the weakest link.
“Organisations need to start by having the right technology in place to provide a solid security foundation that protects their data and their employees. For example, limiting administrative privileges is one simple way for organisations to massively reduce the threat so that all users have only the access they need to perform their job roles. Limiting unknown and therefore unauthorised applications from running ensures that employees are not subjected to drive by attacks. It is also crucially important to ensure employees have the freedom to get on with their jobs without limiting productivity.
“The analysis highlights a clear need for a defence-in-depth approach to security and a focus on having both the technological and operational processes in place to prevent data breaches.”