Insider Threat Simulation and Management Playbook

December 16, 20235 min read

Playbook Objectives:

  • To evaluate and strengthen the company’s defensive strategies against insider threats.
  • To enhance the team’s ability to detect, respond, and recover from incidents involving potential malicious insiders.
  • To update and refine incident response plans and security policies.
  • To improve communication and coordination among different departments during cybersecurity crises.
  • To identify gaps in the existing security infrastructure and personnel training.

Difficulty Level:

  • Advanced: The exercise requires participants with a comprehensive understanding of security systems, human resource policies, and incident response procedures.


  • Company Name: DataRealm Inc., a leading data analytics firm with sensitive client information at stake.
  • Personalities: John Doe, a disgruntled senior software developer known for his system access privileges. Jane Smith, the CISO. Max Turner, an IT specialist. Ella Brown, the HR manager.
  • Network: Multiple internal servers hosting client databases, intranet, secure coding environment, and a remote access gateway for employees.
  • Systems: A sophisticated SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) system, DLP (Data Loss Prevention) tools, email servers, and a privileged access management system.
  • Story: John Doe has recently been turned down for a promotion and has exhibited behavior suggesting he poses a potential insider threat. Although not entirely proven, circumstantial evidence from behavioral analytics tools points towards his dissatisfaction with the company. Over the past week, unusual activity has been detected in the form of large data transfers during odd hours and alarms have been raised by the DLP system indicating unauthorized access attempts to sensitive client databases. The exercise will simulate John’s increasingly rogue actions, offering attack vectors that involve data exfiltration and system sabotage.
  • Objective: DataRealm Inc. wishes to conduct an insider threat simulation exercise to test the robustness of their current security protocols and team readiness. They aim to mitigate potential risks like intellectual property theft, financial loss, and reputational damage.


  • Cybersecurity Topic: Insider Threat Detection and Response

Exercise Attack Steps:

  1. Pre-Exercise Preparations:
    • Establish the rules of engagement, ensuring a controlled environment that limits potential operational disruptions.
    • Profile the insider threat, identify their potential capabilities and resources.
    • Prepare scenarios involving data exfiltration, system sabotage, and credentials misuse for the exercise.
  2. Simulating Suspicious Activities:
    • John Doe, the insider, initiates unauthorized access to sensitive client data during non-business hours.
    • The SIEM system logs the activity, and alerts are sent to the cybersecurity team.
  3. Triggering Alerts and Response Protocols:
    • The cybersecurity team responds by inspecting the SIEM logs and coordinates with the IT department to monitor the network for further suspicious activity.
  4. Implementing DLP and PAM Measures:
    • The DLP tools are tested for their effectiveness in preventing data from leaving the company network.
    • Privileged access management protocols are put to the test as John Doe attempts to escalate his privileges.
  5. Communication and Coordination:
    • The communications between the cybersecurity team, IT, and HR are simulated to test inter-departmental response.
    • HR starts a simulated confidential inquiry into John Doe’s recent behavior and job satisfaction.
  6. Forensics and Damage Assessment:
    • As the insider attempts system sabotage, the SOC (Security Operations Center) team conducts forensic analysis to trace back the actions to their source.
    • Collaborate with the legal department to understand the implications of actions taken against the insider.
  7. Incident Containment:
    • Implement measures to isolate and contain the damage caused by the insider’s actions.
    • Practice the revocation of access rights and initiation of legal action scenarios.
  8. Post-Exercise Analysis:
    • Collect and analyze all exercise data to evaluate the company’s response capability.
    • Conduct a debriefing session to discuss what went well and what areas need improvement.
  9. Policy and Training Update:
    • Based on exercise feedback, update relevant security policies and training programs to address any identified weak spots.
    • Schedule periodic reviews and updates to the insider threat management playbook.
By conducting this cyber range exercise, DataRealm Inc. will be better equipped to counter insider threats and safeguard their critical assets and client data. The exercise acts as a proactive mechanism for bolstering cybersecurity posture and readiness for real-world insider threat scenarios.
You may like