Just 1 percent of employees are responsible for 75 percent of cloud-related enterprise security risk, and companies can dramatically reduce their exposure at very little additional cost by paying extra attention to these users.
According to newly-released research by CloudLock, which analyzed the behavior of 10 million users during the second quarter of this year, these users are sending out plain-text passwords, sharing files, accidentally downloading malware, clicking on phishing links, using risky applications, reusing passwords, and engaging in other types of dangerous behaviors.
These users include both rank-and-file employees as well as super-privileged users, software architects, and non-human accounts used to perform automated tasks.
According to the most recent Verizon data breach report, the two biggest attack vectors, responsible for more than two-thirds of all breaches last year, involved stolen credentials or phishing.
"Cybercriminals try to find the weakest link, the easiest point of access," said Ayse Kaya Firat, CloudLock's director of customer insights and analytics. "The user might not have any malicious intent. They might just want to listen to some music or play a game, but they're opening up the gateway for cybercriminals."
The top 1 percent of users are also responsible for 81 percent of shared files, and 62 percent of installed apps -- though it's not necessarily the same 1 percent in each category, or the same 1 percent from one day to the next.
"Most of the time there's a huge intersection," she said. "But it is a dynamic number. It changes. So you need a dynamic system that continually monitors this behavior."
Once a company identifies these risky users, she said, it should pay more attention to what they do or escalate responses.
"If you normally just send a notification to a user, in this case you might call the user, or cut off access to applications right away," she said.
By doing this, a company can reduce its exposure significantly, she said.
"You have limited resources," she said. "By focusing on the right people, you can do a ton with minimum effort. If you start small but with the most impactful part of the users, then in just a week, you can make a significant difference."
One particular area of focus should be highly privileged users who install third-party applications. In its research, CloudLock found 52,000 instances of cloud apps accessed by privileged accounts -- a number which should be zero.
If that cloud app is compromised by a hacker, cybercriminals will then be able to impersonate that user, potentially causing an enormous amount of damage to the organization.
The same principles apply to working with partner companies -- a limited number of partners is responsible for the biggest portion of the risk.
According to the CloudLock report, for example, one federal institution was sharing files with more than 7,000 other organizations. But 62 percent of all the sharing was with just 25 others, most of which were not sanctioned government institutions.