The Enemy Within: Unmasking an Insider Data Loss Threat

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Senior Manager, Freed Maxick Risk Advisory Services


How Jack's Tech Startup Battled User Access Issues and a Covert Rival

In the bustling world of tech startups, Jack had built a company from the ground up. His innovative products and talented team had attracted significant attention in the industry. However, as his business thrived, so did the risks lurking in the shadows of the digital realm.

Something Unusual

It began when Jack noticed a rival company was consistently releasing new products that were shockingly similar to products Jack’s company was due to release in the near future. After the third time he noticed it, Jack knew he couldn’t consider it mere circumstance.

Jack kept all his sensitive data, including proof of concept documentation on new products, on a secure drive on the company network. Access was limited to a select group of people within the organization. Jack decided to investigate the users with access to the drive when he noticed something unusual. Access was supposed to be restricted to executives and system administrators, but Jack noticed something very peculiar when he looked at the access listing. Sarah, who was Jack’s cousin and the company’s star developer also had access to the drive. Jack asked his IT Director Lisa, who was responsible for securing the folder why Sarah would have such access. Lisa’s reply sent chills down Jack’s spine.

“She called me and told me that you approved the access.”

At this point, Jack could sense he was onto something. He directed Lisa to remove the access and immediately check the activity from Sarah’s account. After several days of investigation, Lisa found emails from Sarah to a developer at the rival firm. Sarah had been selling Jack’s company’s intellectual property to the rival firm for her own personal gain.

The Aftermath

Jack’s company was never able to fully recover from the loss. Using his intellectual property, the rival firm was able to establish itself as a market leader and gain significant market share over Jack’s company. Sarah faced legal consequences, which put Jack’s relationship with his family under significant strain. As the legal bills from Jack’s ongoing lawsuit with the rival organization continue to mount, he may need to lay off some of his development staff to keep the business afloat.

Data Loss Prevention: Lessons Learned

Jack's harrowing experience shines a spotlight on the threat of insider attacks, a danger often underestimated. Here are key takeaways:

  • Formalize Data Access Provisioning Processes – If Jack’s company had formal processes in place to authorize access to sensitive data, this very well may have never happened. Requiring a formal approval from authorized members of management ensures that informal requests, like Sarah’s, won’t be granted.
  • Perform Periodic User Access Reviews – Jack was right to restrict access to sensitive information to people under the concept of least privilege. Had Jack’s company instituted user access review best practices and a process to review access to the drive on a quarterly or monthly basis, they would have identified Sarah’s inappropriate access much sooner and minimized the extent of Sarah’s theft.
  • Incorporate Data Loss Prevention Best Practices – Many Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software applications exist to monitor and control the outbound flow of sensitive information. Had Jack’s company utilized DLP, they may have caught Sarah on her first attempt and minimized the damage she was able to cause.

Jack's story serves as a stark reminder that insider threats can be as damaging as external cyberattacks. Vigilance and proactive cybersecurity measures such as user access reviews and data loss prevention best practices are essential in defending against these threats.

Take Control of Your Cybersecurity Today!

If this story resonates with you or leaves you feeling vulnerable, know that you don't have to face these challenges alone. Freed Maxick's cybersecurity experts are here to empower you with the knowledge and solutions to protect your digital world.

Our team, led by experienced professionals, is dedicated to helping businesses like yours fortify their defenses and stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. We understand the unique challenges small businesses face and tailor our solutions to meet your specific needs.

Don't wait until it's too late. Reach out to us today to start a conversation about your cybersecurity concerns and how we can help you build a robust defense against digital threats. Contact Justin Bonk, a member of our cybersecurity team, at and take the first step toward a safer digital future.

Remember, in the world of cybersecurity, preparedness is your best asset. Secure your business and protect your future with Freed Maxick.


The scenarios depicted in this blog post are purely fictional and are intended solely for illustrative purposes. Any resemblance to real events or individuals is coincidental. While these stories are not based on actual incidents, they are designed to underscore the potential cybersecurity risks that individuals and organizations may face. It is essential to treat cybersecurity seriously and implement appropriate safeguards. For personalized cybersecurity guidance and solutions, please seek advice from qualified professionals.

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