IT Attacks: Insiders vs. Outsiders
A new study claims that insiders aren’t the main threat to network security:
Verizon’s 2008 Data Breach Investigations Report, which looked at 500 breach incidents over the last four years, contradicts the growing orthodoxy that insiders, rather than external agents, represent the most serious threat to network security at most organizations.
Seventy-three percent of the breaches involved outsiders, 18 percent resulted from the actions of insiders, with business partners blamed for 39 percent—the percentages exceed 100 percent due to the fact that some involve multiple breaches, with varying degrees of internal or external involvement.
“The relative infrequency of data breaches attributed to insiders may be surprising to some. It is widely believed and commonly reported that insider incidents outnumber those caused by other sources,” the report states.
The whole insiders vs. outsiders debate has always been one of semantics more than anything else. If you count by attacks, there are a lot more outsider attacks, simply because there are orders of magnitude more outsider attackers. If you count incidents, the numbers tend to get closer: 75% vs. 18% in this case. And if you count damages, insiders generally come out on top—mostly because they have a lot more detailed information and can target their attacks better.
Both insiders and outsiders are security risks, and you have to defend against them both. Trying to rank them isn’t all that useful.