• Layla Eshack

Many business owners - and the IT professionals they rely on - focus on protecting their companies from external threats – the lone hacker out for a large ransom, the industry competitor pilfering secrets, or organized cyber-criminals with sophisticate phishing schemes, etc. But what about internal threats?

Organizations sometimes fail to consider the true risks that insiders pose to their cybersecurity. Yet, internal risks are every bit as dangerous and damaging as the external ones, even if there is not malicious intent.

The 2019 IBM Cost of Data Breach survey revealed that 24 percent of all data breaches in the past five years were the result of negligent employees or contractors. Another report, Insider Data Breach Survey, found that 60 percent of executives felt employees who made mistakes while rushing to complete tasks were the primary cause of internal breaches. Another 44 percent pointed to a lack of general awareness as the second most common reason, and 36 percent cited inadequate training for their organization’s security tools as a close third.

To drive home the full harm of insider threats, we’ve compiled five actual case studies of internal actors who’ve wreaked financial and reputational damage when they got careless, or abused their knowledge and positions for personal gain.

Case 1: The Careless Employee

Sometimes employers don’t do enough to educate their workers about cybersecurity best practices, and sometimes employees fail to heed recommended security protocols:

A report by a company’s chief security officer discovered that one of the organization’s techs was using duplicate credentials across multiple accounts and failed to set up two-factor authentication on at least two of his accounts.

Though the company recommended these two security best practices – do not use the same log-in for more than one account and apply two-factor authentication for additional protection – the employee neglected to do so.

This weak security enabled hackers to easily infiltrate the company’s network where they disabled and deleted all data backups – local and cloud. After sabotaging the organization’s backups, the hackers then installed ransomware and demanded payment. Without a usable backup, the company was forced to pay the ransom to recover its data.

What You Can Do

Set up automatic scans to check each clients security settings on each machine to ensure that your IT security policies are being enforced. Generate an automatic alert when two-factor authentication is not turned on where it should be.

Case 2: The Sneaky Former Employee

The knowledge that trusted employees gain about your business doesn’t get turned in with their resignation. Employees can become threats after they move on:

An engineer quit his job to start his own business that would be in direct competition with the company he left. According to court documents, the engineer hacked his former company’s server using a former co-worker’s stolen credentials. Once inside the network, he was able to retrieve AutoCAD files, design schematics, project proposals, and budgetary documents – all information that could provide a competitive advantage over his former employer. The value attributed to proprietary information he stole was between $250,000 and $550,000.

For his efforts, the engineer was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

What You Can Do

Establish “exit procedures” for employee turn-over that includes the immediate removal of ex-employees from Active Directory. Scan the network daily for suspicious log-in attempts by ex-employees and others, and generate an alert for each incident.

Case 3: The Compromised Third-Party Vendor

An “insider” doesn’t have to be located directly within your walls to become a threat to your network. Trusted third-party vendors may have enough access to your network and data to be unknowing conduits for external hackers and do damage to your network:

A hacker infiltrated a billing collections agency and gained access to patient information that belonged one of the agency’s clients: a healthcare laboratory. Almost 12 million patient records were compromised, including credit card numbers and other personal identifying information.

A security firm that tracks compromised data found 200,000 patient payment details from the billing company for sale on the dark web. Fortunately, the lab had insurance in place to cover some of the potential cost and liability as a result of the breach.

What You Can Do

Set up internal IT security policies that limits storage of credit card and other personal identifying information, and includes additional security levels for access. Regularly scan the network for any suspicious log-in attempts and generate alerts to investigate.

Case 4: The Deceptive Spouse

Spouses share as much information as business partners, maybe even more. When those relationships turn sour, the secrets shared in private can be used for personal gain:

When a business owner’s spouse began an affair with the owner of a competing business, the spouse sought to use insider knowledge to benefit the competitor. The spouse attempted to log into the company computer with the intent of downloading the client database.

Fortunately, the network had an insider threat detection program that identified this uncharacteristic behavior and sent out an alert regarding the anomalous login. An internal investigation occurred, revealing the attempted hack as well as the affair. Divorce followed shortly afterward.

What You Can Do

Scan the network regularly for anomalous log-ins and generate alerts to examine any suspicious activity. An insider threat protection system that uses machine learning to establish baseline end-user behavior trends can help determine when investigations are necessary.

Case 5: Unsupported Legacy

Software and Devices

Sometimes insider threats are caused by failure to act, rather than an employee doing something bad. Out-of-date devices and software typically do not receive critical security updates and patches, rendering them open doors for hackers:

A massive cyberattack penetrated a software vendor’s IT management systems through a legacy IP scanner tool and compromised an unknown number of end-user client servers.

Some clients had administrative superuser accounts created within their Windows active directory, so unidentified intruders had full access to their systems and data long before detection.

The vendor admitted, “We still have no way to know what sort of malicious software or gateways may have been left behind nor what data has been stolen, which absolutely could lead to additional problems and liability concerns for us in the future.”

More than two months after the attack, the full extent of the damage was still unknown.

What You Can Do

Scan all networks daily, looking for software that is missing the latest security patches, and generate alerts for machines that need updating.

The Internal Protection You Need

As a reputable MSP, we understand cybersecurity and its significance to today’s small businesses. Looking for internal cybersecurity threats is more challenging than managing threats from the outside.

We offer formidable insider threat detection and issue alerting that can accommodate any budget and networks of any size. We have specialized security software that runs a daily non-intrusive check of each computer on your network, and alerts us when it detects these kinds of insider threats, and more.

Contact us today to get protected.

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Most cities across The US are choosing to remain with online learning platforms at least for the foreseeable future. In order to give your child the best chance of success, some adjustments may need to be made to their daily routine.

We here at, Critical IT Solutions, have provided 4 tips for online learning success.

1. Set a Schedule and Post it in a Visible Place

When your child is in their regular classroom, there is often a schedule posted detailing the activities of the day. A posted schedule in your child's home school, can greatly reduce or eliminate conflict and confusion between you and your and child or children if they already know what is expected of them and when.

Here are some things to consider when developing a schedule for your child:

  • Your child's workload

  • Your child's age

  • Your child's attention span

Every child is different and every child works at a different pace. Try to set blocks of age-appropriate time for learning interspersed with snack breaks, art activities, and time outside. A change in environment can be just the thing to keep your child on track and focused when its time for academics.

Here are some free daily schedules you can print and post to help your child succeed at online learning

While having a posted schedule is a valuable tool, it is not set in stone. It's important to be flexible and attentive to your child's individual needs. If he or she is focused and engaged with their online learning, let them continue until they are ready for a break. See what works for your child and go from there.

2. Set up designated remote-learning workspaces in your home

A dedicated workspace with minimal distractions is key to online learning success. Create one or multiple of these workspaces for your children.

Here are some helpful tips for creating distraction-free learning spaces:

  • Chose a place or multiple places in the home that can be used every day. Don't keep changing their work station

  • Keep your child's age and learning style in mind. It is likely that younger children are going to need more assistance with their studies than older high school students will. Consider this when choosing locations for online learning.

  • Remove any toys or other distractions from the immediate area where your child will be attending their online school.

  • Provide plenty of surface area, like a table or desk where your child is free to stretch out with his learning.

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting by utilizing desk lamps or natural light sources.

  • Never involve couches or beds for your child's online learning space. These are places of rest and should be reserve for such activities.

3. Keep up with your child’s schoolwork

It may seem like a daunting task to keep up with your child’s assignments while you work full time, but it can go a long way in ensuring online learning success.

  • Spend just a few minutes a day going over your child’s assignments so he or she knows what they need to accomplish for the day and that you are invested in their online learning success.

  • Stay current and respond as promptly as possible to messages from their teachers, upcoming events, etc.

  • Browse through the online system your child receives their assignments through, and familiarize yourself with it so that you can assist your child if he or she gets lost or confused.

  • Make sure the posted schedule is accurate for each day. Review the schedule each morning with your child so that both you and your child know what assignments are due and the goals for the day.

  • Check on your children at regular intervals to monitor their progress, attention levels, and state of mind. Remember to be flexible with the schedule and adjust activities according to your student's needs.

  • Elicit your child's input on how to meet the day's goals. These types of problem-solving activities are teaching them valuable skills for the future.

4. Be a good role model

The best way to teach your child good behavior is to model the behaviors you want them to emulate. If you are a parent who is able to work from home, try to follow your child's schedule with them as best you can. You could even set up a small desk for them in your home office. Show them the strategies you use to stay organized and productive. This could be something as simple as writing all of your daily tasks down together in the morning or reading together for a break in the middle of the day. They can start learning time management and organizational skills just by seeing how you do work.

If you are a parent who can not be home with your child during the day while they are "at" school, there are still many ways you can support them.

  • Instead of worrying about whether your child is following the schedule at home, set reminders for them that will go off intermittently and remind them to get back on track. You can set these up on their computer/phone, or on a home voice search device such as Amazon Alexa. This can be a great trick for children with shorter attention spans who get distracted at home, or for any event that is scheduled like a zoom class.

  • Your children are less likely to feel "alone" at home if you check in regularly. Communicating with them throughout the day can help them feel supported. Try showing them what you are working on too instead of just asking what they are up to.

Are there other habits or disciplines you and your children have been implementing that have been successful for you? If so, drop them in the comments!

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Clarksburg, MD 20871


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