Managing potential insider threat during COVID-19

Protecting critical assets given emerging risks

The COVID-19 pandemic has given organizations an entirely new and unfamiliar set of risks to manage. As those organizations balance protecting their workforce with keeping business running, they also cannot lose sight of protecting against familiar risks as well.

New world, new risks

The COVID-19 pandemic may increase the risk negligent or malicious insiders may pose to critical assets and data. Compounded by immense economic uncertainty, the loss of critical assets, including research and development, proprietary information, and critical materials, can hinder an organization’s recovery. Given this “new normal,” there is value in proactively refining current approaches to better protect critical assets in the face of emerging threats.

Fundamentals of insider threats

People are any organization’s most important asset, but people are also human. We all have emotions, stresses, and make mistakes. An insider threat occurs when those factors cause an employee, contractor, or vendor to either intentionally or unintentionally compromise valuable information, material, people, or facilities.

While motives can vary from case to case, insider threats typically follow a discernible pattern of behavior that typically moves along a continuum of idea to action. As a result, behavioral factors that impact the idea of a threat or technical and organizational factors that affect the action can all increase the risk of an insider attack.

As the world shifts from one of bricks and mortar to one of bits and bytes, organizations have become more proactive in preventing, detecting, and responding to potential insider threats. These mitigation measures are intended to disrupt the forward motion of asset exploitation, ranging from data exfiltration or system compromise to sabotage or even workplace violence. Now, as the world shifts once again, organizations must revisit these controls and ensure that they are a good fit for how work is done today.

Managing risk, staying resilient

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing the ground to shift under the feet of nearly every organization. In such difficult circumstances, the resilience of workers is shining through as organizations continue to operate as best they can. However, we are all human, and as the crisis drags on, uncertainty, new technologies, and changing circumstances can introduce risk even to the best-prepared organizations. Timely steps to address those risks can help save significant disruption and loss of critical assets tomorrow, all while supporting the resilience of the workforce today.


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