Insider Threats Defined: Types & Examples

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Did you know that insider threats are one of the biggest cyber security risks organizations face today? In fact,  a recent study found that nearly 60% of data breaches involve insiders, making it one of the most commonly cited causes of these attacks. But what exactly constitutes an insider threat, and how can you protect your organization from them?

Read on to discover everything you need to know about insider threats, including their types and examples.

What Is an Insider Threat?

An insider threat is a malicious or negligent actor who has privileged access to an organization’s systems and data. Insiders can include employees, contractors, or business partners who access sensitive information and resources. They can also include former employees who may still have access to company systems.

Insider threats can pose a significant risk to organizations because they often have knowledge or access to sensitive data that could be used for financial gain, espionage, or sabotage.

What Are the Types of Insider Threats?

Insider threats can come in many different forms. Some common types of insider threats include:

1. Disgruntled Employees 

Disgruntled employees are a major source of insider threats. These individuals may have been passed over for promotions, be subject to disciplinary action, or simply be unhappy with their current position within the company. In some cases, these employees may turn to sabotage or other malicious activities in order to get revenge against their employer.

2. Negligent Workers

Negligent workers are another type of insider threat. These individuals may not have malicious intent, but their careless actions can still pose a severe security risk. For example, a negligent worker may accidentally leave sensitive data exposed or fail to secure company resources properly.

3. Malicious Insiders

Malicious insiders are individuals who deliberately set out to harm their employer. Sometimes, these individuals may be motivated by personal gains, such as stealing trade secrets or customer data. In other cases, they may have political or ideological motivations. Regardless of their motives, malicious insiders can cause serious damage to a company.

4. Third-Party Contractors 

Third-party contractors can also pose a security risk if they are not adequately vetted or supervised. For example, a contractor may have access to sensitive company data but no reason to protect it. If this data falls into the wrong hands, it could be used for malicious purposes.

5. The Opportunist

This type of insider is usually motivated by financial gain. They may want to sell trade secrets or sensitive information to competitors, or they may use their access to company resources for personal gain. Opportunists are often challenging to detect because they generally don’t exhibit any obvious signs of malicious intent.

6. Security Evaders

Security evaders are individuals who are not authorized to access specific company resources but do so anyway. In some cases, these individuals may be trying to steal sensitive data or engage in other malicious activities. In other cases, they may simply be curious about restricted areas of the company. Either way, security evaders can pose a severe security risk.

How to Detect an Insider Threat

Here are four ways to detect an insider threat:

Suspicious Activity

If you see an employee or contractor behaving in a way that makes you suspicious, it may be worth investigating further. Suspicious activities could include accessing company data outside of work hours or trying to access areas of the network they don’t have permission.

Unusual Behavior

If an employee’s behavior changes suddenly, this could be a sign that something is wrong. This could include becoming more withdrawn or irritable or changes in work habits.

Financial Problems

If an employee or contractor starts having financial problems, they could be motivated to commit fraud or theft. These activities could include maxing out credit cards or taking out loans they can’t afford.

Access to Sensitive Data

If an employee or contractor has access to sensitive data that they shouldn’t, this could signify that they’re planning to commit fraud or theft. Access to sensitive data could be in the form of viewing customer data without a business need or downloading large amounts of data to a personal device.

Protecting Against Insider Threats

There are a few key ways to protect against insider threats:

1. Implement Strict Access Control

Only give employees the access they need to do their jobs and no more. Monitor employee access and activity closely.

2. Keep Your Systems and Data Secure

Use robust authentication methods, encrypt sensitive data, and keep your software up to date.

3. Be Aware of the Warning Signs

If an employee suddenly starts exhibiting strange or out-of-character behavior, that could signify something is wrong. Pay attention to changes in mood, work habits, and social interactions, and don’t hesitate to speak up if you’re concerned about someone’s behavior.

4. Foster a Culture of Security

Employees are more likely to follow security protocol if they understand its importance. Ensure your employees know about the dangers of insider threats and the steps they can take to help prevent them.


Insider threats are a serious problem for businesses of all sizes. If you suspect that an insider threat may be present in your company, it’s crucial to take action immediately.

At Cyber Sainik, we specialize in detecting and preventing insider threats. We can help you secure your data and protect your business from the damage caused by an insider threat. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll help you assess your risks and develop a plan to keep your business safe.


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