Insider vs. Outsider Data Security Threats: What’s the Greater Risk?

47 data security experts compare the risks of insider threats vs. outsider threats.

The risk of insider threats compared to outsider threats is an ongoing debate, though more companies are taking notice of the risks that insiders can pose to the company’s data security today than in the past. Historically, the data breaches that make the news are typically carried out by outsiders. While these breaches can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (often millions more), outsider threats are generally the threats that have been addressed with traditional security measures. It’s the threats that originate from inside that are much more difficult to prevent and detect using one-size-fits-all security measures.

Insider threats cyber security

Just one of the reasons that insider threats are more difficult to prevent stems from the fact that insiders don’t always threaten the company’s data security intentionally. In fact, many data breaches resulting from insider threats are completely unintentional. To combat these risks, as well as the insider threats originating from those who do have malicious intent, a holistic approach to security is essential in the modern threat landscape – one that adequately addresses not only insider and outsider threats, but effectively manages both unintentional and intentional threats posed by those within your organization.

To gain more insight into the threats posed by insiders vs. outsiders and how companies can effectively mitigate these risks, we asked a panel of data security pros to answer this question:

“What’s more of a threat to a company’s data security: insiders or outsiders?”

Find out what our experts had to say below.

Full article here via Digital Guardian:

Meet the experts:   Spencer Coursen   @spencercoursen

Security Expert Spencer Coursen on ABC7 News
Spencer Coursen ABC7 New York News

Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, and protective intelligence strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

“According to a recent report, 58% of all security incidents can be attributed to…”

Insider threats. The most significant obstacle for a company to overcome is employee complacency. In most corporate environments, upwards of 80% of employees are unable to articulate any real understanding of IT-security related issues and are most likely to introduce a virus through an NSFW download, accept malware through a phishing exploit, introduce a corrupted mobile device (BYOD) to the corporate network, or engage in some sort ofinadvertent human error which may result in a threat to data security (not updating security settings, using simple passwords, doing secure work on public wifi, etc.).

Outside actors take full advantage of these insiders’ vulnerabilities. This is exactly what happened with the Target data breach. In this example, the hackers stole the username and password of an authorized vendor. This gave them unlimited access the Target network without triggering any alarms or raising any suspicion.

Hackers are no longer breaking in through back doors which may trigger alarms. Today they are stealing the keys of authorized users and walking right through the front door.



Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC


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Everyday Safety and the Importance of ProSocial Behavior

Everyday Safety and the Importance of ProSocial Behavior by security expert Spencer Coursen

A woman in South Philadelphia exits the subway and begins the three block walk to her residential townhouse. Arriving home, she looks up the narrow flight of stairs to see a man wrapped in a tarp in front of her door. Unsure of what to do, she stops. She waits. She looks around for help.

A look of unease comes across her face. Several commuters pass her by. Many by car. Some by bicycle. A few on foot. Of those who do walk by, two or three make the concerted effort to look at her, then at the man sleeping on her steps, then back at the woman herself. They all say nothing. While some contemplate an offer off assistance. Their eyes half-hope the woman won’t engage. Relieved when she doesn’t speak first, they continue on without ever looking back. The woman is too embarrassed to ask for help, yet too frightened to ascend her steps alone. Twenty minutes and thirty people pass her by, until eventually, a young college girl notices the woman in turmoil, and asks if she’s alright.

Prosocial behavior refers to “voluntary actions that are intended to help or benefit another individual” (Eisenberg and Mussen 1989, 3)…And while the motivations behind such acts may be difficult to predict, be they kin selection, the reciprocity norm, or the empathy-altruism hypothesis  —  one core concept can not be overlooked: Everyday safety requires the participation of everyone.

It’s easy for government bodies and administrative agencies to try and steer the vessel of public safety in the right direction with strategies like “If you see something, say something” but even with the ship pointed toward safer shores, it still requires the participation of the public to paddle.

Battlefield commanders can’t simply point to the top of a hill, and with a boisterous, “Charge!” make it their own. They must communicate their intent with clear, direct, and specific sets of instruction so that the individual soldiers understand the plan, know exactly where to go, and know exactly what to do once they get there.

Ensuring the public safety is no different. We’ve become so focused on the over-arching security policies that we’ve forgotten to educate the public on how to implement effective strategies into their everyday safety practices.

Think back to the last time you saw something that you knew was out of place. A time when something, “just wasn’t right.” Were you alone? Did you give a puzzled look to someone else who was witnessing the same thing? What did you do next? Did you initiate an offer to help?

In the aftermath of tragedy, coworkers, friends, and the general public at large come forth in droves with eyewitness accounts and information about suspicious activities that were witnessed leading up to the event. So why didn’t they say something before hand?

The Bystander Effect is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.


Perhaps a more common explanation, is deeply rooted in our social pre-disposition to avoidance — a well-established, self-defense strategy deeply grounded in the false narrative of the “it won’t happen to me” mindset.

Our internal sense of defense is so finely tuned for ensuring our personal safety that it automatically acts as a filter to let us know what is good and what is bad. Unfortunately, we have socialized ourselves to rationalize our intrinsic survival instincts away from our better judgment. We too often negotiate against our natural ability to protect ourselves —  shutting down our “Gif of Fear” — so as not to offend the feelings of those who intended to do us harm.

We must be prepared to participate in our own safety. We can no longer afford to live on the fringe of the pendulum swinging between hyper-vigilance and complacency. Our goal should be to re-frame the social dynamic from avoidance and fear to one of awareness and empowerment.

Everyday safety requires the participation of everyone. Our willingness to help another is often the first step toward protecting ourselves.

Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Staying Safe on the Trail of Pikachu

Spencer Coursen discusses safety tips for privacy and safety while playing pokemon go

If you are among the millions of users who have already downloaded the Pokemon GO application, stop what you’re doing right now and download the new update which is available now in the App Store. In addition to fixing a few programming bugs, the update changes the scope of the application from allowing administrators to view everything you do on Google and will now protect your privacy by limiting access to just your User ID and email address.

For those not in the know, Pokémon GO is a gaming application that fuses augmented reality with real life interaction by placing virtual creatures and items in real-world locations. This means game play has brought people to places they don’t normally go.

There have been a few mishaps along the way:

A Wyoming woman found a dead body. The Holocaust Museum has had to ask people to leave, and police are warning the public to be aware that muggers can “add a beacon to a Pokéstop to lure more players.

Security expert Spencer Coursen offers safety tips to help users protect their privacy and stay safe while playing Pokemon GO

Any game that takes you from inside the safety of your home and into the realities of the outside world is going to require the user to employ a higher level of situational awareness. Pokemon GO warns users right when they start to: “Be aware of your surroundings,” but the University of Maryland has already had 3 students robbed while being unaware of their surroundings during gameplay and a 28-year-old man crashed his car into a tree after being distracted by the game.

After all, while you’re tracking down Picachu in his world, it’s important to remember that you’re actually playing in ours. Here’s a few tips to keep you safe on the trail:

  • Be careful when crossing streets, using public transportation, driving, riding a bike, or walking down the street. Keep your head up and your eyes open;
  • Do not go onto private property, dark alleys, or remote areas you would not typically go if you weren’t playing the game;
  • Identify safe havens in nearby areas…those places where you know you can go for help if you feel unsafe;
  • Respect private businesses; museums, and memorials;
  • Consider playing in groups so you can look out for each other.

Awareness + Preparation = Safety

Security Expert Spencer Coursen specializes in threat assessment protective intelligence and vulnerability reduction. Coursen Security Group Logo.

Ease Your Fears With Practical Awareness

Spencer Coursen Safe Haven

You’re marching in a peaceful protest when you suddenly hear shots & screams.

What do you do? Where do you go?

Police Shootings Protests Dallas
Protesters march during a Black Live Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Multiple media outlets report that shots were fired later Thursday during the protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Learn to ease your fears by empowering yourself with awareness.

A safe haven is anywhere you can go to be protected, so take a few minutes every day — wherever you are — to identify the nearest safe place.

For most of us, the best Safe Haven will be our homes…but what about those times when home is too far away?

When moments matter most, you want to have a plan, you want to know where to go, and know how to get there.

The same things goes for your children.

No one fears that which they know well which means children are at their best when they are empowered to overcome to overcome their fears. Instead of burdening children with “what if” fears, empower them with “If this” solutions.

The following are three simple solutions for parents looking to empower their children with a positive personal safety strategy.

Traveling somewhere new? When in doubt: “Run to a Restaurant.”

Restaurants make great safe havens!

  • They are easy to describe
  • They are easy to identify
  • They can accommodate large groups of people
  • They will have food, water, and bathrooms
  • They are staffed by locals who know the area
  • And they will have hard lined phone an internet so you can still let your loved ones know you’re ok even if the cell towers go down

Make identifying safe havens a regular part of your family emergency plan so that everyone knows where to go and everyone knows where to be found if your family should get separated.

Identifying Safe Havens is a lot like wearing your seatbelt; most of the time you won’t need it — but in those unexpected times you do — you’ll certainly be glad you did.


Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC

Should police screening require Harvard’s IAT?

I’ve fielded a lot of calls today about the recent police shootings.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Harvard’s ‪#‎ImplicitAssociationTest‬ in the next few days. I first learned about it reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s book ‪#‎Blink‬ (a must read.) The IAT measures racial prejudices that we cannot consciously control.

It’s the test every police officer should be required to take as part of the selection process. Regrettably, too few do.

Race IAT

Read this to learn more:

Security Expert Spencer Coursen specializes in threat assessment protective intelligence and vulnerability reduction. Coursen Security Group Logo.