Preventing Security Risks Posed by Disgruntled Employees

Employees who were fired or are unhappy with your company for other reasons can pose a risk to the security of your sensitive data.
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Preventing Security Risks Posed by Disgruntled Employees

Employees who were fired or are unhappy with your company for other reasons can pose a risk to the security of your sensitive data. The threat of damage from the inside is potentially much more dangerous and difficult to prevent than attacks from external sources.

Being aware of the security risks posed by disgruntled employees with VPN access to your corporate network is the first step in preventing damage from misuse of information or resources. A skilled and trusted IT service provider offering specialized cybersecurity services can provide a proactive approach to help prevent cyberattacks from staff members or former employees.

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Employee Access to Sensitive Information Creates Risk

To skillfully complete what you hired them to accomplish, many employees must be granted access to much of the information that makes your company unique. Employees in financial departments must have access to company bank accounts.

Like a double-edged sword, sharing passwords and inside information with employees is part of what keeps your business in operation. Yet this same sharing of secrets with employees can simultaneously pose a huge risk. It's important to trust your employees, but taking precautions to guard information is also essential.

Security Risks From Misuse of Insider Knowledge and Ease of Access

Whether still on-staff or an ex-employee, many disgruntled workers possess insider knowledge about your company's IT system - the system that holds valuable software, intellectual property, links to financial files and bank accounts. Many may have the means to access this sensitive information without detection. They could steal funds, transfer intellectual property to a competitor or delete valuable information, and no one would be the wiser.

Why Employees Attack Companies

Many employees:

  • Feel they were let go for unfair reasons.
  • Others believe they were passed over for promotions.
  • Some simply suffer from greed. They feel entitled to a greater share of company profits than they are earning.

Such employees can delete, steal or misuse files and backups if they have VPN access to parts of the corporate network where sensitive data is stored.

Examples of Cyber Crimes Committed by Disgruntled Employees

  • A former engineering firm employee continued to access his previous employer's files, to steal company designs.
  • Employee theft of intellectual property nearly spelled an end for this company.
  • A former healthcare worker stole patient identity data to access pandemic-related benefits.

Many small businesses fear cyberattacks from ex-employees more than attacks by nation-states, says this Tech Republic post. A major data breach by an employee could shut down a company perhaps for a day - but potentially, permanently.

Containing the threat from within is essential, in view of the well-publicized growing risk from insider cyberattacks. Yet preventing and detecting misuse of data by current or former employees can be challenging.

Preventive Steps for Mitigating the Risks of Cyberattacks by Dissatisfied Employees

Two golden rules for addressing potential security risks posed by disgruntled employees:

  1. Put Security First - When Setting up IT Systems and Recruiting Staff Members 
  2. Verify Staff Members' Continued Adherence to Security Precautions

Effective management of user privileges is an important consideration that's often overlooked in the rush to meet business goals. So is the monitoring of user behavior. Here is a list of preventive measures your company can take to lessen the ability of disgruntled employees to retaliate through misuse of IT system privileges.

  • Perform background checks on employees, interns, contractors, anyone who might have access to systems that could present a security risk.
  • Networks should be set up with security in mind. Permissions for access should be strong.
  • Only grant access to certain systems to staff members for whom access is necessary to fulfill job functions. If requests for access to additional systems is requested, verify it is actually necessary.
  • Present security awareness training for staff members on a consistent basis. Teach them to notice irregularities that may indicate cyber threats, and the process to follow if they suspect a security breach.
  • Follow a defined policy regarding data classification and handling; protect high-risk data with data loss technologies.
  • Continually offer reminders to employees that user accounts and permissions are granted solely for business use. Let them know network activity is monitored.
  • Be firm when establishing permissions and guidelines on how data must be used, with whom it is shared, and how it is stored especially when offering bring your own device plans.
  • Remote work and mobile device security best practices must be made clear to employees.
  • Password policies and account privileges for users must be provided to every employee who utilizes your IT system.
  • Accounts must be regularly monitored. Be certain to verify that accounts are closed and/or permissions updated whenever an employee leaves the organization, or moves into a different role that doesn't require access to a previously used system.
  • Personal data use and information sharing outside the corporate network should be limited by network access rules.

A Professional IT Service Provider can Help Prevent Damage by Disgruntled Workers

Cyberattacks by disgruntled employees are rapidly increasing. It's time to make certain every possible precaution against information misuse has been taken.

Hiring a professional IT security service provider knowledgeable in the creative ways dissatisfied employees are negatively impacting companies can greatly lessen the chances your company will fall victim.  A professional manged IT provider can equip your employees with the necessary skills and knowledge -  and utilize the latest technologies -  to eliminate internal threats.

Companies like ours offer thorough analysis and complete threat remediation. We can help you identify and minimize potential risks posed by inefficiencies in access practices and controls. Our around-the-clock security monitoring and firewall protection can be invaluable in the detecting of security breaches by insiders as well as from professional cybercriminals.

Whether they were fired, transferred, or simply disagree with company policies, a small but dangerous percentage of former or current employees can, unfortunately, pose a serious security risk. Do your practices and IT system provide sufficient checks against unnecessary access by dissatisfied company associates?

If not, the security, perhaps even the survival of your business is at risk. Velocity IT, based in Dallas, can help you greatly lessen that risk. Contact us to get started on a plan for protecting your most sensitive information from theft, deletion or misuse by disgruntled employees.

Kenny Riley

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog post.

If you want our team at Velocity IT to help you with all or any part of your business IT, cybersecurity, or telephone services, book a call.
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