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Insider Data Theft Prevention

Insider Data Theft Attacks: How to Prevent and Mitigate Them

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

23 November 20234 min read

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insider data theft

Insider data theft is a serious problem. It occurs when employees steal confidential information from their own company using technology. One damaging form of insider threats is intellectual property theft (IP). Unfortunately, valuable ideas like trade secrets and private information can be easily stolen. This article will discuss insider data theft, its impact, and how to prevent such attacks.

Insider data theft:

Insiders steal data when they have authorized access and use their privileges. This type of theft encompasses various security incidents, such as the theft of:

  • Software
  • Business plans
  • Customer data
  • Product designs

To stop data theft by insiders, control access, monitor systems, and teach employees about security.

Impact of insider data theft:

Insider data breaches or theft can profoundly impact companies, especially in the IT and software industries. The consequences of insider theft include:

  1. Insider data theft can cause companies to lose a lot of money. The stolen intellectual property (IP) may represent years of research, development, and investment. When someone steals important information, such as trade secrets or software code, it can harm a company's profits.
  2. Sometimes, when employees quit, they might steal info to create their own products or tech. Using secret information gives them an edge in the market with better products. The company may face more competition, less market share, and less revenue due to the theft.
  3. Reputational damage: Insider data theft can also harm a company's reputation. If an employee leaks information, customers may lose trust, and the brand could suffer.
  4. Companies that face insider data theft may also face legal action and regulatory scrutiny. This can result in fines, legal costs, and, potentially, reputational damage. The company may be liable for privacy law breaches if the stolen data contains customer information.

Insider data theft statistics:

According to a survey by the Ponemon Institute, 74% of companies feel somewhat at risk from insider threats. Many organizations see the risks of insider misconduct and want strong prevention methods.

Furthermore, the average cost of an insider threat incident continues to be staggering. In 2023, the average incident cost was $15.38 million, as stated in the Insider Threat 2020 Cybersecurity Market Report.

The cost includes investigating and fixing the problem. It also includes legal fees and reputation damage. Additionally, there is the potential loss of information. 

Insider threats can cause huge financial harm to organizations. 

Examples of famous insider theft cases:

Let's explore some famous examples of insider theft cases:

Waymo vs. Uber legal battle over trade secrets

Google's self-driving car company, Waymo, claimed that Uber stole its trade secrets. Waymo said that a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, took secret files about their self-driving cars. He left Waymo to begin his own self-driving truck company, which Uber later bought. 

The case showed how serious insider theft is and the risks it poses to innovation and competition.

Former Tesla employees leaked sensitive data and personal records to a German news outlet.

Former Tesla employees leaked personal records to a German news outlet in 2023. The breach made people worry about privacy and how customer info might be misused. 

These employees' actions show the need for better controls to stop insider threats and data breaches. 

Types of insider threats:

Insider threats can manifest as security threats in various forms. These include:

  1. Some employees misuse their access to systems or data for personal gain. 
  2. Unhappy workers who don't like their jobs or workplace might become a security risk. They may expose private or carry out unauthorized actions to harm the organization.
  3. Outsider hackers are not just employees but also unauthorized outsiders. When hackers illegally access accounts, they can cause damage to the company's IP. 

What are the best ways to prevent insider theft:

So, how do you prevent insider theft, considering how harmful it can be? Well, there are two primary methods:

  1. Restricting access to confidential information.
  2. Tracking online activities for suspicious behavior.

Security teams must also be trained on the "acceptable use policy" and report suspicious activities.

Furthermore, businesses should take preventive measures and educate employees. This can reduce the chances of falling victim to malicious insider attacks. It also safeguards your competitive edge and helps avoid financial losses.

Implementing preventive measures

It's crucial for organizations to implement preventive measures to combat this risk. Businesses should invest in security protocols to protect valuable information and stabilize the business. This will maintain their competitive advantage and minimize damage.


What is insider data theft?

Insider data theft is defined as data breaches caused by negligent insiders or when an employee moves valuable company data outside of an organization's electronic systems (from data sources such as computers, servers, and hard drives).

What is an example of an insider attack?

Examples of data breaches include fraud, theft of important information, sabotage, and employee mistakes.

What is an example of insider threat malware?

An employee installing unlicensed software onto a business computer is a prime example. The employee may not have intended to harm the company. Still, as pirated software often contains malware and backdoors, this reckless action created an entry that external actors may not have been able to get on their own.

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Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.