skip to Main Content
Why Do Internal Cybersecurity Breaches Happen?

Why Do Internal Cybersecurity Breaches Happen?

Within organizational cybersecurity, internal cybersecurity breaches represent a complex and often underestimated risk

Internal cybersecurity breaches emanate from individuals within the organization – employees, contractors, or business partners – who have access to sensitive information and systems. Understanding why internal cybersecurity breaches happen and developing effective strategies to prevent malicious insiders is critical to combating the insider threat.

74% of organizations are at least moderately vulnerable to insider threats, and 74% of organizations say insider attacks have become more frequent. [Cybersec Insiders]

Understanding Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Internal cybersecurity breaches can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional threats include actions taken by disgruntled employees or those with malicious intent, whereas unintentional threats often result from negligence or lack of awareness. Both types can lead to significant damage, including data breaches, financial loss, and reputational harm.

Motivations Behind Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Several factors motivate internal cybersecurity breaches:

  1. Financial Gain: This could involve employees or insiders who access and exfiltrate sensitive data, such as customer information, trade secrets, or intellectual property, with the intent to sell them on the black market or use them for personal financial advantage. An IT administrator, for example, might copy and sell customer databases to competitors or on dark web marketplaces. Organizations can mitigate this risk by implementing strict access controls, conducting regular audits, and using data loss prevention (DLP) tools to monitor and restrict the transfer of sensitive information.
  2. Disgruntlement: Discontent or dissatisfaction with the employer can drive an employee to sabotage the organization deliberately. This could stem from various reasons, including perceived unfair treatment, disagreements with management, or dissatisfaction with job roles. A disgruntled employee may delete critical data, introduce malware into systems, or disrupt services to harm the organization. It is important to foster a positive work environment, address employee grievances proactively, and monitor for unusual behavior that might indicate disgruntlement.
  3. Ideology or Espionage: Some internal breaches are motivated by ideological beliefs or external influences, such as espionage. This can involve employees who believe they are advancing a political, social, or ethical cause or those acting under the influence of external entities, such as foreign governments or competitors. An employee influenced by a competitor might steal trade secrets to give their employer a market advantage. Similarly, an employee with strong political beliefs might leak sensitive information to the public or activist groups. Employees can conduct more thorough background checks, implement strong security training, and establish a policy for reporting suspicious activities to help mitigate this potential internal threat.
  4. Accidental or Uninformed Actions: Not all internal threats are intentional. Many data breaches occur due to accidental or uninformed actions by employees who lack cybersecurity awareness. This includes mishandling data, falling prey to phishing scams, or inadvertently sharing sensitive information. An employee might accidentally send confidential files to the wrong email address or fall for a phishing email, leading to a data breach. Regular cybersecurity training and awareness programs can significantly reduce the risk of accidental breaches. Encouraging a culture of security mindfulness and implementing user-friendly security and reporting tools can help to prevent unintentional errors.

The Human Factor

Human behavior plays a significant role in cybersecurity. Factors such as lack of training, disregard for security protocols, or simple errors can lead to severe security lapses. The human factor is unpredictable and can be the weakest link in cybersecurity, and it is important our colleagues understand the common signs of phishing and understand the core principles of zero trust and how ransomware spreads.

Organizational Culture and Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

The culture within an organization can inadvertently encourage Internal Cybersecurity Breaches. A lack of emphasis on security, poor communication, and ineffective management practices contribute to an environment where security is not prioritized, increasing the risk of insider risk cybersecurity breaches.

Technology and Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

While technology has advanced, so have the methods by which insiders can exfiltrate sensitive data. The proliferation of portable devices and cloud services has made it easier for insiders to access and remove data without detection—a clear call for BYOD security and protection of cloud delivery services.

Unreliable Signs of Potential Insider Threats

Unusual work hours, such as accessing systems during off hours or days, can be unreliable signs of insider threat indicators because they may simply reflect flexible or unconventional working schedules, which are common in many modern workplaces.

Frequent violations of company policies, while concerning, might not always indicate malicious intent; they could result from a lack of understanding or training on security protocols. Work pressure or stress, insufficient resources or tools, ineffective policy enforcement, workplace culture issues, or just resistance to change could all be factors.

Similarly, unexplained wealth or lifestyle changes—often cited as indicators of insider threats—could result from a variety of legitimate personal circumstances unrelated to illicit activities within the organization. I new side-gig, an inheritance, investment success, selling personal assets like property, vehicles, or collectibles, or an insurance payout, for example.

Preventing Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Prevention strategies should encompass various aspects:

  • Comprehensive Background Checks: Conducting thorough background checks during the hiring process can identify individuals who may be potential risks.
  • Regular Training and Awareness Programs: Keeping employees informed about security best practices and the dangers of internal cybersecurity breaches.
  • Robust Access Control Measures: Implementing the principle of least privilege, microsegmentation zero trust, and regularly reviewing access rights.

Detecting Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Technological solutions can play a critical role in detecting insider cybersecurity threats:

  • User Behavior Analytics (UBA): Tools that analyze patterns of user behavior to detect anomalies.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Technologies: Systems that monitor and control data transfers.

Responding to Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Having a response plan is crucial:

  • Immediate Containment: Ensuring that the threat does not escalate requires real-time monitoring and automated response.
  • Investigation and Analysis: Conducting a thorough investigation to understand the scope and impact.
  • Legal and Disciplinary Actions: Taking appropriate actions based on organizational policies and legal requirements.

Building a Culture of Security

Creating a security-conscious culture is a long-term solution:

  • Top-Down Approach: Leadership must emphasize the importance of security.
  • Fostering Open Communication: Encouraging employees to report suspicious activities without fear of reprisal.
  • Regular Security Audits: Evaluating and improving security policies and practices.

The Role of Leadership in Mitigating Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the organization’s approach to security. This involves setting the tone for security importance, ensuring resource allocation, and fostering a culture where security is a shared responsibility.

The Future of Insider Threat Management

As organizations evolve, so must their strategies for managing internal cybersecurity breaches. This includes leveraging AI and machine learning for predictive threat analysis and fostering a more integrated approach to cybersecurity.

An advanced cybersecurity platform, such as the TrueFort Platform, can effectively mitigate insider risk by employing a combination of real-time monitoring, behavioral analytics, and robust policy enforcement. This analyzes user behavior patterns to detect anomalies that may indicate insider threats, whether intentional or accidental. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, it can predict and identify potential insider risks before they materialize into security incidents. Additionally, the platform’s ability to enforce dynamic security policies and access controls at a granular level ensures that only authorized activities are allowed, further reducing the risk of internal cybersecurity breaches. This comprehensive approach not only detects potential insider threats but also helps in swift response and remediation, thereby safeguarding the organization’s critical assets and data.

Internal cybersecurity breaches are a multifaceted problem requiring a comprehensive approach. Understanding the why behind these threats is the first step in crafting effective prevention, detection, and response strategies. Organizations must balance technological solutions with a strong emphasis on culture, training, and awareness to mitigate these risks. The role of CISO is now also one of education. As the cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, staying vigilant and adaptable is key to safeguarding against internal cybersecurity breaches.

Share This


Related posts

Back To Top
TrueFort Emblem Logo

Truefort customer support

TrueFort customers receive 24×7 support by phone and email, and all software maintenance, releases, and updates

For questions about our support policy, please contact your TrueFort account manager or our presales team at

Support Hotline

Email Support