Insider threats costing organizations millions: Study

On average, impacted organizations spent USD 11.45 million annually, on overall insider threat remediation and took 77 days to contain each incident, according to Proofpoint?s Cost of Insider Threats 2020 Global Report.

The report, commissioned with The Ponemon Institute and co-sponsored by IBM, identified the costs and trends associated with negligent, compromised, and malicious insiders. It surveyed nearly 1,000 IT and IT security practitioners across North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. Each organization included in the study experienced one or more material events caused by an insider. Over the last two years, the frequency and costs associated with insider threats increased dramatically across all three insider threat categories, including: careless or negligent employees/contractors, criminal or malicious insiders, and cybercriminal credential theft.

?With an average cost of more than USD 600K per incident, insider threats must be a leading concern for companies worldwide,? said Mike McKee, executive vice president and general manager of Insider Threat Management for Proofpoint. ?Organizational insiders, including employees, contractors, and third-party vendors, are an attractive attack vector for cybercriminals due to their far-reaching access to critical systems, data, and infrastructure. Given that users regularly work across a wide range of applications and systems, we recommend layered defenses, including a dedicated insider threat management solution and strong security awareness training, to provide the best protection against these types of attacks.?

The key findings of the report include:

  • Organizations impacted by insider threats spent an average of USD 11.45 million annually?that?s up 31% from USD 8.76 million in 2018.
  • More than 60% of reported insider threat incidents were the result of a careless employee or contractor and 23% were caused by malicious insiders. A total of 14% of all insider threat incidents involved cybercriminals stealing credentials.
  • The number of incidents has also increased by a staggering 47% in just two years, from 3,200 in 2018 (Ponemon) to 4,700 in 2020.
  • The longer an insider threat incident lingers, the costlier it gets. Incidents that took more than 90 days to contain cost organizations USD 13.71 million on an annualized basis, while incidents that lasted less than 30 days cost roughly half, at USD 7.12 million. It takes an average of more than two months (77 days) to contain an insider incident.
  • The larger the organization the more insider incidents. Large organizations with a headcount of more than 75,000 spent an average of USD 17.92 million over the past year. To contrast, smaller organizations with a headcount below 500 spent an average of USD 7.68 million.  
  • The financial services industry spent more to contain insider threats per incident than other sectors. Over the past two years the average financial services industry spend was USD 14.3 million to contain an incident verses USD 11.54 million for energy and utilities companies and USD 10.24 million for the retail industry (a 38% increase in 2 years).
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