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External attacks expected to supersede the insider threat in the next three years

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C-level executives believe that external threats will outweigh the insider threat within the next three years.

According to research by Cyber Ark, 57 per cent of global C-level executives view external threats as greater than those posed by insiders, as headlines on hacking and advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks have increased.

Talking to SC Magazine, Mark Fullbrook, director for UK and Ireland at Cyber Ark, said that he found the survey results very interesting, particularly as there is a continued trend of the insider threat. “You ask who the person most likely to access sensitive data is and seven per cent said HR, ten per cent said management but 50 per cent said IT,” he said.

“There is a good understanding that IT have access to sensitive data but it is seen that blended threats are a bigger problem. It is either that C-level executives believe that the insider threat will shrink or the external threat will get bigger.”

The survey of 1,422 IT staff and C-level professionals across North America and EMEA also found that almost one in five of C-level respondents admitted that cases of insider sabotage had occurred at their workplace, while 16 per cent believed that competitors may have received highly sensitive information or intellectual property.

Fullbrook said: “If you look at the attack vector for APTs, they inevitably use an unpatched exploit or take advantage of some kind of privileged escalation or privileged access.”

“A third of global respondents said that they had accessed information that was not relevant to their role, while a quarter admitted that they had used an admin password to access confidential information.”

When asked if they had ever accessed information on a system that was not relevant to their role, 28 per cent of North American respondents admitted to snooping, while 44 per cent in EMEA admitted to the same behaviour.

“This does not surprise me, people have got to realise that the IT guys have access to information and management that might appear to be something from a spy novel, but as we are more reliant on the internet we realise how powerful the IT manager is in our offices,” said Fullbrook. 

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