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Fending Off Insider Threats 101

by Matt

No issue in the 21st century has raised more concern within the corporate world than cybersecurity risk. Cybersecurity threats, whether from within or outside of the organization, can spell a disaster for a company’s reputation. No organization is immune to this problem, which makes the responsibility to mitigate cyber risk a top priority.

In this article, we cover what insider threats are, and the best practices to prevent damage to the reputation, financial assets, and intellectual property of your company. Read on to learn more.

What Is an Insider Threat?

An insider threat is a cybersecurity attack that comes from within the organization itself. The attack may be caused by your current employee, former employee, or other third parties like contractors, business partners, or board members. These individuals may use their access to the organization’s network systems, databases, and applications to accidentally or maliciously cause harm to the business.

Insider threats accounted for 66% of all cybersecurity threats reported between 2019 and 2020, based on Kroll’s Global Fraud and Risk Report. Generally, insider threats can be classified into three main categories of people:

Negligent insiders

These insider threats come from careless employees and contractors. The individuals comply with company policies but make occasional mistakes, oftentimes, without even realizing they’ve made an error until it’s too late.

Disgruntled insiders

These insider threats are caused by employees (current or former) who steal sensitive business data with the intention of sabotaging its systems. Employees become disgruntled for different reasons. But in most cases, data breaches are financially motivated.

Criminal insiders (second streamers)

These insider threats arise from current employees looking to steal confidential business information for financial gain. Criminal insiders generate additional income by selling trade secrets to cybercriminals or on the black market. They typically wreak the most financial havoc on any organization.

What Should You Do to Fend Off Insider Threats and Manage Risks?

Whether the culprit is a negligent employee or a second streamer, insider threats can damage your business with greater severity. You must implement a proactive, prevention-focused mitigation program to identify data breaches and bolster your information security.

So how can you fend off insider threats as a beginner? Consider adopting the following best practices in your company’s SOPs:

Make your staff aware of the consequences of a data breach

Human errors are almost always the weak link in the data security chain. To mitigate the risk of insider threats, make sure that your employees are regularly trained about the consequences of data misuse. By no means should regular staff training be redundant?

Rather, it should revolve around key data security obligations, including data protection, password management and phishing prevention. It should also cover your organization’s policies, how your program works, and how to detect and report suspicious activity. A knowledgeable, dedicated employee can greatly reduce the risks associated with insider threats.

Segment your organization’s data and closely manage permissions

Segmenting your data and users is fundamental when it comes to limiting the risk of malicious compromises. Organizations should ensure business data are classified according to risk, with sensitive information assigned the highest levels of classification.

Likewise, employees, contractors, and agencies need to be grouped according to their roles within the organization. Access to intellectual property should be allowed only to those who need it to perform their duties. It’s best to regularly review these permissions as roles change to ensure employees know which data are permitted.

Invest in behavioral analytic tools to monitor unusual behavior

There are many tools that allow you to detect and flag certain behavioral patterns that are not aligned with your company’s policies. A good example of those tools is the User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA), which spots unusual behaviors and reports them before they harm your organization.

Using advanced machine learning and behavioral analytic techniques, UEBA can separate anomalous from normal user-based behaviors. This technology identifies unusual access patterns, credentials abuse, large data uploads, and much more. As a result, you’ll be able to battle these insider threats before it’s too late.

Build an insider threat response team to manage malicious insiders

You should put in place a dedicated insider threat response plan to deal with data breaches when they occur. This includes building a threat hunting team focused exclusively on insider threats. The team can be small, but all of the members should be IT security professionals who understand the ins and outs of managing malicious insiders.

A dedicated insider threat hunting team can help gather and analyze the necessary information to ascertain what data was exposed. This ensures that all your organization’s data is handled in a forensically sound manner. And, in turn, it becomes easier to ward off any theft or disruption even before it materializes.

How Prepared Is Your Organization?

Insider threats are increasingly becoming a growing cause for concern among businesses of all sizes. And businesses that fail to take the appropriate precautionary measures could end up paying a heavy price—loss of sensitive business assets and systems.

Fortunately, with the right data access management strategy, backed up by intelligent technology solutions, it’s easy to keep private information well away from any prying eyes.



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