Insider Threat Statistics: Updated 2020

  • By Maddie Rosenthal
  • 19 June 2020

Over the last two years, there’s been a 47% increase in the frequency of incidents involving Insider Threats. This includes malicious data exfiltration and accidental data loss.

Why does this matter? Because these incidents cost organizations millions, are leading to breaches that expose sensitive customer, client, and company data, and are notoriously hard to prevent.

In this article, we’ll explore how often these incidents (with different methods and motives)  are happening, the financial  impact these incidents have on larger organizations, and the effectiveness of different preventive measures. 

But first: What is an Insider Threat?

  • What is an Insider Threat?

    Insider threats are people - whether employees, former employees, contractors, business partners, or vendors - with legitimate access to an organization’s networks and systems who deliberately exfiltrate data for personal gain or accidentally leak sensitive information.

If you’re looking for more background on Insider Threats, we have several resources you can read first:

  1. What is an Insider Threat? Insider Threat Definition, Examples, and Solutions
  2. Insider Threat Indicators: 11 Ways to Recognize an Insider Threat
  3. Insider Threats: Types and Real-World Examples

You can also download an infographic with the key statistics from this article. Click here.

How frequently are different Insider Threat incidents happening?

As we’ve said, incidents involving Insider Threats have increased by 47% since 2018. But the frequency of incidents varies industry-by-industry.

Which industries are the most affected overall?

Verizon’s 2020 Breach Investigations Report offers a comprehensive overview of different incidents in different industries, with a focus on patterns, actions, and assets. 

They found that:

  • The Healthcare and Manufacturing industries experience the most incidents involving  employees misusing their access privileges
  • The Public Sector and Healthcare suffer the most from lost or stolen assets 
  • Healthcare and Finance see the most “miscellaneous errors” (for example misdirected emails

Who’s the Insider?

There are several different types of Insider Threats and the “who and why” behind these incidents can vary. 

According to one study:

  • Negligent Insiders are the most common and account for 62% of all incidents. 
  • Negligent Insiders who have their credentials stolen account for 25% of all incidents
  • Malicious Insiders are responsible for 14% of all incidents

Looking at Tessian’s own platform data, Negligent Insiders may be responsible for even more incidents than most expected. On average, 800 emails are sent to the wrong person every year in companies with 1,000 employees. This is 1.6x more than IT leaders estimate. 

Why did they do it?

When it comes to the “why”, Insiders – specifically Malicious Insiders – are often motivated by money, a competitive edge, or revenge. But, according to one report, there is a range of reasons malicious Insiders act. Some just do it for fun. 

But, we don’t always know exactly “why”. 

For example, Tessian’s own survey data shows that 45% of employees download, save, send, or otherwise exfiltrate work-related documents before leaving a job or after being dismissed.  While we may be able to infer that they’re taking spreadsheets, contracts, or other documents to impress a future or potential employer, we can’t know for certain. 

It’s worth noting, though, that this number is highest in competitive industries like Financial Services and Business, Consulting, & Management, which supports our theory. 

How much do incidents involving Insider Threats cost? 

The cost of Insider Threat incidents varies based on the type of incident, with incidents involving stolen credentials causing the most financial damage. But, across the board, the cost has been steadily rising.

Likewise, there are regional differences in the cost of Insider Threats, with incidents in North America costing the most and almost twice as much as those in Asia-Pacific.

But, overall, the average global cost has increased 31% over the last 2 years, from $8.76 million in 2018 to $11.45 in 2020 and the largest chunk goes towards containment, remediation, incident response, and investigation.

But, what about prevention?

How effective are preventative measures?

As the frequency of Insider Threat incidents continues to increase, so does investment in cybersecurity. But, what solutions are available and which solutions do security, IT, and compliance leaders trust to detect and prevent data loss within their organizations?

According to Tessian’s latest report, The State of Data Loss Prevention 2020, most rely on security awareness training, followed by following company policies/procedures, and machine learning/intelligent automation.

But, incidents actually happen more frequently in organizations that offer training the most often and, while the majority of employees say they understand company policies and procedures, comprehension doesn’t help prevent malicious behavior.

That’s why many organizations rely on rule-based solutions. But, those often fall short

Not only are they admin-intensive for security teams, but they’re blunt instruments and often prevent employees from doing their jobs while also failing to prevent data loss from Insiders. 

So, how can you detect incidents involving Insiders in order to prevent data loss and eliminate the cost of remediation? Machine learning.

How does Tessian detect and prevent Insider Threats?

Tessian turns an organization’s email data into its best defense against inbound and outbound email security threats.

Powered by machine learning, our Human Layer Security technology understands human behavior and relationships, enabling it to automatically detect and prevent anomalous and dangerous activity.

  1. Tessian Enforcer detects and prevents data exfiltration attempts
  2. Tessian Guardian detects and prevents misdirected emails
  3. Tessian Defender detects and prevents spear phishing attacks

Importantly, Tessian’s technology automatically updates its understanding of human behavior and evolving relationships through continuous analysis and learning of the organization’s email network.

Oh, and it works silently in the background, meaning employees can do their jobs without security getting in the way. 

Interested in learning more about how Tessian can help prevent Insider Threats in your organization? You can read some of our customer stories here or book a demo.

Maddie Rosenthal