Insider threats come from people within the organization, such as employees, former employees, contractors, or business associates, who have inside information concerning the organization’s security practices, data, and computer systems. The threat that an insider will use their access, wittingly or unwittingly, to do harm to the security of the organization is a challenging and persistent issue. Fortunately, there are various ways to detect and prevent these kinds of security breaches.
Understanding Insider Threats
Types of Insider Threats:
- Malicious Insiders: These individuals intentionally abuse their access to harm the organization.
- Negligent Insiders: Employees who unintentionally cause harm through negligence, such as by falling for phishing attacks.
- Infiltrators: External actors who obtain insider credentials without authorization.
- Intellectual property theft
- Data breaches of sensitive information
- Financial theft or fraud
- Damage to organization’s reputation
Detecting Insider Threats
- Unusual access patterns or working hours
- Excessive downloading or printing of sensitive documents
- Attempts to bypass security controls
- Expression of discontent or disagreement with organizational policies
- Unexplained increase in data usage
- Multiple failed login attempts
- Unusual outbound network traffic
- Installation of unauthorized software
Monitoring and Surveillance:
- Establish a system for monitoring user activity.
- Use automated tools to flag anomalous behavior.
- Implement a mechanism for employees to report suspicious behavior confidentially.
- Regularly review access logs and other security records.
- Conduct random audits of sensitive systems and information.
Preventing Insider Threats
Culture and Training:
- Foster a security-minded organizational culture.
- Provide regular training on security best practices and threat awareness.
- Implement the principle of least privilege.
- Use role-based access controls to minimize each user’s exposure to sensitive information.
- Regularly review and update access rights, especially after role changes or terminations.
Process and Policy Development:
- Develop clear policies for data handling, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and remote work.
- Include clear consequences for security violations.
- Employ Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools that track and prevent the inappropriate flow of sensitive information.
- Use security software that includes real-time threat detection and incident response capabilities.
Insider Threat Programs:
- Establish a dedicated insider threat program that focuses on prevention, detection, and response.
- Staff the program with a mix of IT, cybersecurity, HR, and legal expertise.
- Have formal procedures in place for when employees leave the organization.
- Immediately revoke access credentials and recover any company-owned devices.
- Create an environment in which employees feel comfortable discussing mistakes, such as falling for a phishing scam, without fear of retribution.
- Employ User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) to establish baseline behaviors and detect anomalies.
- After a security incident, perform a thorough review to understand what happened and why.
- Adjust policies and procedures based on lessons learned.
- Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the detection systems and adjust thresholds and parameters as necessary.
- Stay aware of evolving threats and update training and systems accordingly.
Collaborate with Stakeholders:
- Collaborate with IT, HR, legal, and other relevant departments to ensure a cohesive approach to insider threat management.
- Ensure that all monitoring and detection activities comply with laws and regulations regarding employee privacy and surveillance.
By understanding the potential risks from insider threats and implementing a comprehensive strategy to detect and prevent them, organizations can mitigate the impact these threats can have. Regular training, technological solutions, thorough audits, and a culture of transparency are paramount in reducing insider risks and keeping the organization’s assets secure.