Forget the notion that only big corporations need to worry about data protection. If you're managing a small or medium-sized business (SMB), safeguarding your sensitive information from insider risks—those stemming from within the organization itself—is critical. In fact, the risks posed by insider threats can hit smaller businesses even harder than large enterprises!

In this guide, we're breaking down insider risk management specifically for SMBs, giving you practical strategies and actionable tips that’ll help sooth your concerns.

Understanding insider risk for mid-size enterprises

Insider risk refers to the potential harm or danger posed by individuals within an organization who may intentionally or unintentionally compromise the organization's security or data.

Types of insider threats

  • Unintentional: These threats arise from human error or negligence, leading to accidental data leaks, misconfigurations, susceptibility to phishing attacks, and improper data handling.
  • Malicious: This category involves individuals with malicious intent who deliberately aim to harm the organization through actions such as data theft, sabotage, espionage, and insider fraud. 

We’ve dug deep into the nitty gritty of insider threats in another article, so we won’t go into more detail here. But we strongly recommend you read up on insider threats there—it has everything from types of insider threats to best practices for preventing them and knowing how to react if an insider threat does occur in your company.

Consequences of insider threats for SMBs

What we want to stress in this article is that the consequences of insider breaches for small and medium businesses can be profound, and that even if you’re business isn’t a mammoth just yet, it still needs to protect itself.

Financial losses resulting from data breaches can cripple SMBs. Moreover, the reputational damage that could follow can tarnish an SMB's brand and credibility, making it challenging (or even impossible) to recover from. Failure to protect sensitive data may even subject SMBs to regulatory penalties, legal liabilities, and fines, further jeopardizing their viability.

Unique challenges faced by SMBs

Small and medium-sized businesses encounter several distinctive challenges when it comes to managing insider risks:

1. Limited budgets: SMBs often operate with constrained financial resources, making it challenging to invest in comprehensive cybersecurity measures and dedicated personnel.

2. Lack of dedicated cybersecurity teams: Unlike larger businesses, smaller and medium-sized enterprises may lack dedicated cybersecurity teams or personnel with expertise in identifying and mitigating insider threats. Small businesses will oftentimes make do with an “IT person” or two who handle everything, but don’t necessarily have the experience to consider insider threats as much as they should. In general, SMBs may struggle with detecting and responding to insider threats due to their organizational structure.

3. Remote work and cloud reliance: The trend toward remote work and reliance on cloud-based solutions and collaboration tools such as Slack have introduced new complexities in insider risk management. This is because remote environments typically lack the level of oversight and control as traditional office settings. If you allow BYOD (bring your own device), that’s another potential weak security layer. If your company allows either of these, you’ll need to put in place robust access controls and encryption mechanisms to mitigate insider risk.

4. Underestimating data protection importance: Some SMBs may not prioritize data protection adequately, including insider threat management, due to a perception that they are less likely targets. Others lack awareness about the potential consequences of data breaches.

Tip: Read more about the importance of data protection for SMBs in our article “Protect Your Business: Why Smaller Businesses Must Prevent Data Loss”

In the following sections, we'll look into the insider risk management strategies tailored to the needs and constraints of SMBs, exploring practical approaches and tips to get you started.

How to build a culture of security awareness

Before you start with individual strategies, you’ll need to get your entire company into the right mindset: a security mindset. Fostering a culture of security awareness is very important for small and medium-sized businesses to defend against insider threats effectively.

Here’s how you can start building a security-conscious environment in your business:

   Leadership support

Begin by gaining the support of company management. When executives show they're serious about security, it encourages everyone else to take it seriously too.

 Employee training

Hold regular training sessions to educate employees about the various forms of insider threats and provide real-life examples and practical tips to help employees recognize and respond to potential threats. We have tips on how to educate employees in a way that’ll really resonate with them and make them understand that cyber security is a team effort.

 Security policies

Create simple and straightforward security rules covering how employees should use company hardware and software, handle data, manage passwords, and report problems. Make sure everyone knows these rules, talks about them often, and follows them consistently.

 Continuous communication

Keep talking! People forget things, so it's important to remind them regularly. Make it easy for employees to report issues, ask questions, and get help. Encourage honesty and responsibility when dealing with security matters.

Insider risk management strategies for SMBs

Now that you’ve seen how to set the table for insider risk management in your small or medium enterprise, below are practical strategies and best practices specifically designed to address the needs of SMBs:

Establishing a data security policy

  • Develop a comprehensive data security policy: Outline guidelines, procedures, and best practices for handling sensitive information within the organization. This policy should cover aspects such as data classification, access controls, encryption standards, incident response protocols, and employee responsibilities.
    Tip: You can use international standard ISO 27001 as your guiding light in setting up an effective information security management system.
  • Keep it up-to-date: Regularly review and update the data security policy to reflect changes in technology, business processes, and regulations.
  • Educate yourself on data regulations: Ensure the policy is aligned with regulatory requirements and industry standards relevant to your business sector, such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, or European Data Act.

Zero Trust access management

  • Adopt the Zero Trust Approach: Embrace the principle of Zero Trust, where trust is never assumed, even for insiders. Implement continuous verification mechanisms to ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data and systems.
  • Regular access reviews: Conduct periodic reviews of user access rights to identify and revoke unnecessary permissions, thereby reducing the attack surface for insider threats.

Data encryption and two-factor authentication

  • Implement data encryption: Utilize encryption techniques to encode sensitive data, both in transit and at rest, safeguarding it from unauthorized access or interception. For instance, encrypting emails containing sensitive information ensures that even if intercepted, the content remains unreadable without decryption.
  • Adopt two-factor authentication (2FA): Implement 2FA as an additional layer of security beyond traditional username and password authentication. Require users to provide two forms of identification before granting access. For example, when logging into work accounts, employees must enter their password (first factor) and a one-time code received on their mobile device (second factor), ensuring access only to authorized personnel.

Employee education and awareness

  • Regular training sessions: Conduct regular training sessions to educate employees about the importance of data security, common insider threats, and best practices for safeguarding sensitive information.
  • Role-based training: Tailor training programs to specific job roles and responsibilities, emphasizing the importance of maintaining confidentiality and following security protocols.
  • Promote a security-conscious culture: Foster a culture of security awareness where employees feel empowered to report suspicious activities and adhere to security policies.

Employee offboarding procedures

  • Secure offboarding process: Establish clear procedures for securely offboarding employees, including revoking access rights, collecting company-owned devices, and conducting exit interviews to identify potential insider risks.
  • Disable access promptly: Disable access to corporate systems and data promptly upon an employee's departure or termination, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or data exfiltration by disgruntled former employees.
  • Data recovery and erasure: Implement data recovery and erasure processes to ensure that sensitive information stored on employee devices or accounts is securely deleted or transferred to successor employees.

Incident response planning

  • Develop an incident response plan: Put together a clear plan detailing what to do if there's an insider threat incident. Make sure it covers everything from spotting the problem to fixing it and getting back on track.
  • Pick your incident response team: Decide who's in charge of what during an incident. Assign roles and make sure everyone knows what they're supposed to do to handle the situation smoothly.
  • Test and update plan regularly: Regularly test and update the incident response plan to account for changes in technology, workforce dynamics, and emerging insider threat trends.

Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions

  • Invest in DLP technology: Consider implementing DLP solutions that can be tailored to the needs and budget constraints of SMBs, offering functionalities such as data discovery, classification, user activity management, cloud data protection, and real-time monitoring and alerts. Not to toot our own horn, but Safetica’s product can do just that (and more!).
  • Deploy endpoint DLP agents: If you’re company utilizes remote workers, install DLP agents on endpoint devices to monitor and control data transfers, ensuring sensitive information remains protected, even in remote work environments.


By putting these insider risk management strategies into action, customized just for small and medium-sized businesses, you're beefing up your defense against insider threats. It's all about keeping your sensitive data and business operations safe and sound.

For a comprehensive list of best practices for preventing insider threats in a company of any size, see our article about spotting insider threats.

How Safetica can help SMBs manage insider threats

At Safetica, we understand the unique challenges faced by SMBs in managing insider risks. From monitoring employees and analyzing behaviors to issuing real-time alerts and protecting cloud data, Safetica equips SMBs with the tools they need to safeguard their sensitive information.

Read our customers’ stories—we work with businesses of all sized across many industries.

Strengthen your organization's security today by partnering with Safetica. Let us guide you on a journey toward enhanced cybersecurity resilience and peace of mind.

Book a demo call so we can show you what Safetica can do for your company specifically and explain all of the features you can choose from when you choose our product.