How background checks protect you from insider threats

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Rachel Moore
July 27, 2023
Updated on:

HR professionals face an ever-growing challenge: data protection and preventing insider threats. The rise of remote and global work environments makes this even more important. Background checks are a powerful tool for insider threat prevention; equipping you with credible insights to identify potential risks and mitigate them effectively for both potential and existing employees. 

In this post, we’ll look at the vital role background checks play in preventing insider threats, especially in a global and remote working world. 

What are insider threats?

Insider threats refer to the risk that an organisation's security, confidentiality, and integrity faces from individuals who have authorised access to sensitive information or systems. These threats arise when insiders, such as employees, contractors, or partners, use their positions to intentionally or inadvertently cause harm through unauthorised disclosures, data breaches, sabotage, or fraud. 

According to the 2023 Insider Threat Report, 74% of organisations reported an increase in insider threats. This growing trend highlights the importance of protecting sensitive information and preventing such threats. 

Background checks are one of the top 10 ways to prevent insider threats. They serve as a crucial tool in protecting sensitive information and provide you with insights that help evaluate an employee's trustworthiness, integrity, and potential risks. 

Percentage of organisations that reported an increase in insider threats

Identifying Risk Factors

Background checks examine an individual's past behaviours and associations, including their criminal history, employment records, and financial activities. By identifying any red flags or patterns of misconduct, you can assess the potential risk they may pose to sensitive information.

Evaluating trustworthiness 

Verifying educational qualifications, professional licences, and employment history helps establish the individual's expertise and integrity. This evaluation aids in verifying the accuracy of the information and helps to determine whether the candidate is trusted with handling sensitive information without compromising confidentiality.

The importance of rescreening background checks on current employees. 

Rescreening background checks during employment validates the ongoing suitability of employees. It ensures that individuals remain trusted to handle sensitive data and helps to decrease associated risks. There are a number of reasons why it is important to rescreen employees for background checks. These include: 

  • If employees move into different positions within the company, rescreening background checks helps to verify they’re still suitable for the role and the responsibilities required.
  • Rescreening helps identify any changes in an employee's background or behaviour, such as criminal records or financial troubles, that could impact their suitability for the position.
  • To ensure the company remains in compliance with regulated business requirements to frequently rescreen employees. 

Preventing insider threats is increasingly important, especially in regulated industries such as financial services, government and defence, education, transportation, and healthcare. These industries operate under specific regulations and compliance requirements such as the FCA and CQC to protect sensitive information. Failing to prevent insider threats may have significant consequences, such as financial loss, compromised data security, reputational damage, and non-compliance with regulatory standards.

3 reasons why you should rescreen employees

Establishing a culture of security  

Incorporating background checks as part of the hiring process and throughout employment sends a strong message about an organisation's commitment to security. It establishes a culture where employees understand the importance of protecting sensitive information and fosters an environment where security is prioritised.

Protecting sensitive information is critical for any organisation. Follow these best practices to implement an insider threat programme in a way that feels collaborative rather than punitive:

  • Involve employees in the process: Form an insider threat working group with representatives from across departments and levels. Get their input on policies and procedures that feel reasonable and effective. Share drafts widely and incorporate feedback.
  • Focus messaging on shared values: Communicate how insider threat measures uphold the organisation's mission and principles. Remind employees that protecting information is part of their existing responsibilities and benefits everyone.
  • Offer clear guidelines for handling sensitive information: Provide training and resources to help employees navigate situations like receiving misdirected emails. Make it easy for them to do the right thing.
  • Develop compassionate investigation procedures: Equip managers to have supportive conversations if they notice potential issues. The goal should be helping employees get back on track, not catching them in the act.
  • Reward participation: Incentivise attending training and speaking up about concerns through small bonuses or shout-outs. Positive reinforcement beats avoidance.
  • Be transparent about monitoring: Disclose what channels are monitored versus private so employees do not feel undue suspicion. Also communicate how insights are used.
  • Learn from mistakes: If an unintentional insider threat occurs, treat it as an opportunity for organisation-wide improvement. Analyse how to prevent it in the future.

Protecting sensitive information and maintaining a positive culture go hand-in-hand. Develop policies collaboratively, support employees, and emphasise shared values to build an insider threat programme that everyone strengthens.

How to prevent insider threats in today's global, remote working world 

Today’s global working world opens a wealth of opportunities for businesses. However, it’s good to keep in mind that with increased opportunities comes increased risk. 

The ability to hire globally puts businesses in the fortunate position to have access to incredible talent worldwide, with a wealth of skills. You are not restricted to local talent and can increase diversity in the workplace to supercharge your business. However, the rise of hybrid office environments is said to be one of the top contributors to the risk of insider threats, according to the 2023 Insider Threat Report. Because of this, it’s important to remain vigilant with online security and data protection when hiring globally. You can decrease the risk of security threats by implementing top security measures such as strong authentication, a detailed security policy, and comprehensive background screening.

Automate background checks for efficiency

Conducting rigorous, ongoing background checks on every employee is essential for insider threat prevention, but the process is time-intensive if managed manually. Instead, leverage third party solutions that automate and simplify screening:

  • Integrations automatically initiate checks on new hires and renewals for existing employees
  • Dashboards centralise background check status, flag any issues, and provide required adverse action notices
  • Configurable workflows standardise how background checks are requested, completed, and reviewed
  • Mobile compatibility allows managers to review results and make determinations remotely
  • Automated monitoring notifies when changes in an employee's status occur between periodic checks

Automating background checks through a third party platform saves security teams countless hours. It also enables organisation-wide consistency and auditing. Employees understand checks are a standard process rather than a sign of individual suspicion. Streamlining this critical defence against insider threats protects the organisation while supporting culture.

Global background checks Zinc

With Zinc you can conduct 12 background checks that provide valuable insights into an individual's past, character, and potential motivations. You can use this information to make informed decisions when it comes to hiring, retaining, and monitoring employees. By leveraging the insights gained through background checks, organisations reduce the likelihood of insider threats and promote a secure and trusted environment.

Final thoughts

Background checks are a vital tool in the prevention of insider threats. They help guarantee you hire the right people for the team and ensure existing employees remain compliant throughout their time at the company. 

As insider threats rise and global, remote working become more prevalent, the need for comprehensive background checks in the workplace is crucial. By leveraging platforms like Zinc, you can easily rescreen employees to enhance your data protection measures, maintain transparency, and safeguard against the risks posed by insider threats.

Discover a better way for reliable automated background checks