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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.
January 29, 2024


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internal risk

Secure leadership: Why managers should mitigate internal risks

This article explores a range of internal risks, and why everyone in a workforce has a part to play in preventing security breaches.

For a company of any size, human behaviour is one of the key threats to its security. Internal risks can result from a number of incidents such as deliberate acts of sabotage, an individual’s digital error, unethical dealings or unintended security breaches.

To protect your company’s staff and its reputation as well as strengthen its foundations, solid risk management policies and procedures need to be in place. Therefore, it is vital to recognise the potential risks, the damage they can inflict and ways to mitigate them. 

Understanding the variety of internal risks


Image credit: PantherMedia/AlamyStock

Internal risks refer to threats originating from within an organisation that can negatively impact digital operations, finances, reputation and personnel. Recent reports argue that as well as being your biggest asset, your workforce may also be your biggest risk when it comes to your company’s reputation.

Such risks can result from negative incidents within the company becoming public knowledge and damaging the brand, public trust or just an inability to perform a role, get on with people and cooperate. Other rifts might come from unaddressed scandals, unethical behaviour or conflicts of interest. 

Businesses have the challenge and responsibility of being vigilant about potential risks inside the company. In early 2024, attacks on technology remain a leading threat for companies with individual employees being hacked, for instance, and not realising they were vulnerable. Cyber attacks are also concerning and can damage operations in general and can stem from inadequate or failed internal processes, errors in systems or controls, mistakes by employees or problems with infrastructure. 

A key way to mitigate IT and tech problems is to also invest in training and apply regular IT security and extended risk management courses to all your employees, from new recruits to senior leaders. IT system failures, supply chain disruptions and human errors can be especially dangerous in the security industry, leading to accidents, threats to life and costly damage to unprotected buildings, machine equipment, vehicles and products. 

Knowing the ‘risk profile’ of your employees

RiskPeopleManagement-JacekDudzinksi-AlamyStock-22Managers must be able to understand and identify the risk profile of their employees. Moreover, they must also learn when risks materialise within an organisation, they can lead to massive disruptions and consequences. From profit declines, lawsuits, crises, disruption of key objectives, or even complete business failure – organisations must implement rigorous risk management to identify and mitigate internal threats.

Managers, especially new ones, can therefore benefit from a dedicated leadership course to learn how to rise to the needs of your organisation. Training can provide strategies designed around helping to identify, mitigate and deal with any internal threats from employees that range from theft or brand damage to harassment and hacking.

The costs of inaction are severe, whereas managing risks strategically can provide internal security and resilience. Human error left unchecked will nearly always lead to financial and reputational loss. More direct financial risks might be down to unethical practices and fraud. In addition, profits can be dented by weak budgetary controls, fraud, misreporting figures or lack of financial oversight or. 

When it comes to personal data impingements, these usually relate to employees and can vary. According to GDPR guidance ‘a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed’. Any data breach must be reported swifty to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if it is deemed a risk to someone’s personal rights and freedom. Knowing how to report issues is as vital as building awareness about compliance failures or undetected fraud. 

Leading by example to mitigate issues

Communication-RiskManagement-21Unlike external risks that come from outside forces, internal risks emerge from weaknesses or failures in processes, controls, systems or staff. Managers occupy a critical role when it comes to identifying and addressing internal risks proactively.

Meanwhile, everyone in the company in addition to clients, stakeholders, investors and clients want to feel reassured that a business is in safe hands. Leading by example in risk management is also critical for building a resilient organisational culture and securing operations. 

Leaders set the tone for the entire team and hold a pivotal position in risk management. By spearheading efforts, embracing transparency on possible emerging issues and dedicating resources to oversight and audits, managers demonstrate the priority of internal security to everyone. This trickles down to shape employee behaviours and neglecting this responsible stance can enable risks to grow unchecked.

By rewarding participation in audits and embracing negative performance or bad news without targeting the messenger, managers can foster a collaborative culture where risks are reported responsibly. This collective approach can strengthen your formal risk policies and cement your long-term risk-aware culture.

Developing essential risk assessment skills 

Effective risk management requires leaders to possess a robust set of skills to spearhead mitigation efforts across the organisation.

  • Risk analysis: the ability to critically analyse emerging threats, assess potential impacts, and pinpoint root causes. Leaders must aptly evaluate both external and internal risks to the company. Communication: clear and persuasive communication skills to rally the organisation around risk management and promote transparency about existing and emerging issues. Keeping all stakeholders aligned is key.
  • Strategic planning: skills to develop company-wide risk management policies, oversight procedures, mitigation protocols, audits, and training programs to address risk systemically.
  • Client management: leaders need political savvy to secure buy-in for risk initiatives from employees, managers, boards, shareholders, and even external regulatory bodies.
  • Adaptability: as new risks emerge, leaders must re-appraise threats and re-align mitigation plans to protect the company. 

The risk landscape evolves rapidly. Beyond these skills, leaders also require essential emotional intelligence and integrity to foster an ethical, transparent culture where employees feel safe surfacing issues early before they spiral. Setting a positive example of taking responsibility and learning from failures is also vital – leaders must walk the talk.

Looking ahead, you can future-proof your organisation and operations with training, monitoring to be reassured that your staff and systems are secure to mitigate risks before they erupt. With steps taken to understand potential threats, whether these are deliberate, targeted or unintentional, up-to-date risk assessment strategies and regular audits are vital.

As a leader, your role is to nurture a transparent, risk-aware culture where employees are able to flag issues up and report them in confidence. 

Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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