Insider Cyber Threats

Posted: March 6, 2024

It’s no secret that a business’ security is one of its most important considerations. It would seem that there is a daily reminder of this unfortunate fact - but it’s even more unfortunate that many people aren’t aware of where many threats can actually come from. Below, we’ll discuss how some threats start on the inside - as well as what you can do to help stop them.

From the Inside?
Some may be surprised to learn that one of the biggest threats to your business technology is the group of people you’ve hired to work with it. There are a variety of reasons that your end-users can create a security problem through their actions.

Vengeance - As melodramatic as it sounds, if an employee is dissatisfied enough by something to do with their job, they might just lash out against the business. Whether that takes the shape of deleting critical files before storming off, unleashing malware into your system, or just breaking some critical component, your business could find itself in deep trouble. Even worse, if the employee thinks ahead about it, they could potentially figure out how to hide their actions until they are long gone, or just access your network later to mess with your business - and the longer an issue persists, the more it will ultimately cost you.

Inappropriate/Illegal Activities - Unfortunately, a workstation is not just a great productivity tool. It is also one of the most potent distractions out there, thanks to all the content available online that should not be accessed by someone in a professional environment. From games, to adult material, to social media, to watching x-animal try to mimic y-human activity on YouTube, you are up against a formidable foe if you try to wrangle the Internet. However, it is crucial to your network security that you do so, as threats can be very easily hidden in content that would seem harmless on the surface. Protecting yourself against these threats means that you have to apply patches as they become available, and it can’t hurt to block access to certain websites if you discover that there is a tendency for them to be accessed during work hours.

Of course, there’s inappropriate, and then there’s illegal. Unfortunately, unless you can establish that you have taken measures to prevent such activities, any illegal activities performed on a business’ network are the responsibility of the owner. Monitor your network activity, and again, block access to certain sites. You should also keep a documented acceptable use policy, signed by every employee, so that you can legally protect yourself should the need arise.

Leaking Information - There are a variety of reasons that an employee could want to take information out of the safe environment of your network. Those with good intentions may just want to get some extra work done at home - but we’ve all heard where the road paved with good intentions leads to. A frustrated employee might decide to take a little something along when they leave to entice their next employer into hiring them.

How to Protect Against Insider Threats

Preventing insider cyber threats involves a combination of technical, organizational, and human-centric measures. Here are some strategies to help mitigate the risk of insider threats:

1. Employee Training and Awareness: Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices, including the risks associated with insider threats. Through ongoing security awareness training, you can help promote a culture of security awareness and encourage employees to report any suspicious activity.

2. Access Control and Least Privilege Principle: Implement the principle of least privilege, ensuring employees have only the access necessary for their roles. Be sure to regularly review and update access permissions based on job responsibilities.

3. User Monitoring: Monitor user activities, especially those with privileged access, to detect unusual behavior or unauthorized access.

4. Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data, both in transit and at rest, to protect it from unauthorized access, even if an insider gains access to the network.

5. Implement Strong Authentication: Use multifactor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security, making it more challenging for unauthorized individuals to gain access.

6. Regularly Update and Patch Systems: Keep software, operating systems, and applications up-to-date with the latest security patches to mitigate vulnerabilities that could be exploited by insiders.

7. Incident Response Plan: Develop and regularly test an incident response plan to ensure a swift and effective response in the event of a security incident, including insider threats.

8. Insider Threat Monitoring Tools: Utilize specialized tools designed to detect and mitigate insider threats, such as user activity monitoring, anomaly detection, and endpoint security solutions.

9. Employee Offboarding Exit Procedures: Develop comprehensive exit procedures to revoke access promptly when an employee leaves the organization or changes roles.

10. Whistleblower Programs: Establish confidential reporting channels and whistleblower programs to encourage employees to report suspicious activities without fear of reprisal.

Remember that a combination of technical controls, employee awareness, and a proactive security mindset is crucial for an effective insider threat prevention strategy. Regularly reassess and update your approach based on emerging threats and organizational changes. As unfortunate as internal threats inherently are, you need to accept that they are real in order to deal with them. To learn how we can help, reach out to us.

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