Insider Threat

Understanding and mitigating insider threats is crucial in our community. It involves being aware of potential risks from within and taking steps to safeguard sensitive information and resources effectively.

What Is an Insider Threat?

Insider threat refers to the potential risk posed by individuals within the university community who have authorized access to sensitive information, facilities, or assets for legitimate reasons. 

This includes employees, students, vendors, suppliers, or others granted access to valuable resources. These individuals have the potential to cause harm intentionally or accidentally.  

Recognizing and addressing insider threats is essential to maintain security and protect the university’s assets and information integrity. 

What Are Some Examples of Insider Threats?

A malicious insider threat refers to individuals within the UC community who have both the intention and ability to cause significant harm. This can include actions like:

  • Sabotage: Purposefully disrupting IT systems or facilities.
  • Espionage: Stealing information on behalf of an external entity.
  • Leaks: Intentionally disclosing information to harm UC’s competitiveness, leadership reputation, or financial standing.
  • Physical Threats: Involvement in plots, or harassment that have a physical impact.

An accidental insider threat refers to individuals within the UC community who, despite having good intentions, can unintentionally cause significant harm due to carelessness or negligence. This can include actions like:

  • Falling victim of social engineering: Being manipulated into compromising security unknowingly.
  • Failure to protect login credentials: Accidentally exposing or mishandling access credentials.
  • Poor cyber hygiene: Engaging in practices that make them vulnerable to cyber threats.
  • Not following basic IT security policies and standards: Unintentionally violating established security protocols.

Motivations Behind Insider Threats

Understanding the motivations behind insider threats is crucial for raising awareness and implementing effective security measures.

Here are some key motivations to consider:

  • Financial Pressures: Individuals facing economic challenges may be tempted to exploit their access for personal financial gain, especially when dealing with sensitive data or resources.
  • Personal Grievances: Disgruntled employees or students may act out of personal grievances, seeking to harm the university as a form of retaliation.
  • Competition and Rivalry: Intense academic or professional competition can drive individuals to compromise the university’s security to gain an advantage.
  • Espionage and External Influence: External entities may coerce individuals into compromising the university’s security for their own benefit.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: Manipulation through social engineering tactics can unintentionally deceive individuals into compromising security.

By recognizing these motivations, we can better anticipate and address insider threats, ensuring the university implements appropriate measures to safeguard our resources and information. 

Warning Signs and Indicators

Here are some common warning signs and indicators of insider threats to be aware of:

  • Behavior Changes: Observe for noticeable shifts in behavior, like increased secrecy, sudden financial challenges, and unexplained lifestyle changes.
  • Unusual Access Patterns: Monitoring access logs for deviations from normal behavior, such as accessing sensitive data outside of regular hours or attempting to access unauthorized areas.
  • Excessive Data Handling: Be cautious of employees or students excessively downloading, copying, or transferring large amounts of sensitive data without a legitimate business need.
  • Policy Disregard: Recognize employees or students who consistently violate security policies, disregard data handling guidelines, or bypass established protocols.
  • Inappropriate Resource Use: Watch for misuse of university resources, like equipment or facilities, for personal gain or activities unrelated to their responsibilities.

Being alert to these warning signs can help identify potential insider threats and take timely prevention actions.

What You Can Do About It

The UC community can enhance our security measures significantly by staying vigilant and responding appropriately when needed:

  • Report Security Incidents: If you observe any security incidents or potential signs of threatening activity, please alert the Office of Information Security (OIS) at or by calling 513-558-4732.
  • Adhere to Policies and Standards: Follow established policies and standards and seek clarification.
  • Proactively Address Risky Behavior: Take proactive steps to address any risky behavior observed in the workplace.
  • Collaborate with Co-workers and Students: Work collaboratively with your co-workers and students to escalate and address security concerns collectively.

Your active involvement adds a crucial layer to our security defense, contributing to a safer and more secure environment. 

The More You Know

The Office of Information Security is committed to providing the UC community with the resources to understand security best practices, policies, and standards.

Secure the Present, Protect the Future.