Did you know that unauthorised individuals within an organisation can cause serious harm to a company’s computer systems and databases? It’s called an insider threat cyber security and a big deal. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes accidental, but it can result in a significant data breach. These attackers may be after financial gain or want to steal valuable trade secrets or intellectual property.

To keep your data and business information safe, security teams must closely monitor user behaviour and use advanced detection tools to identify potential threats. So, don’t let your guard down – always protect your sensitive information.

What Are the Types of Insider Threats?

Insider threats are further split into categories, such as collaborators, malicious insiders, lone wolves, and pawns.

1. Malicious Insider Threats

A malicious insider threat is a cybersecurity risk posed by an individual or group of individuals who have authorised access to an organisation’s system or network but who use that access with the intention of causing harm. This type of threat is particularly dangerous because the insider has knowledge of the organisation’s sensitive data and systems and may be able to bypass security measures in place.

Malicious insider threats can take many forms, such as stealing data or intellectual property, deleting or altering data, installing malware or viruses, or providing unauthorised access to others. These threats can be carried out by employees, contractors, or partners who have legitimate access to an organisation’s systems or network.

2. Collaborator

Insiders collaborating with outsiders to inflict damage on organisations are a grave threat. Such nefarious partnerships could cause data breaches and operational disruption. Risky actors may be competitors, states, criminal gangs, or individuals.

3. Lone Wolf

Lone wolves operate solo and are free of external control. This makes them a serious risk, especially due to their potential access to sensitive data, like databases.

4. Careless Insider Threats

Insider threats, often resulting from human error, can be accidental or deliberate. Unknowingly, careless workers may aid malicious attackers or be duped by phishing and malware. These risks can be unwitting pawns or simple mistakes, exposing organisations to external threats. Again, poor judgment, convenience, and stolen credentials can lead to data breaches and the loss of confidential information.

Pawns, unwittingly manipulated, may carry out malicious acts, such as downloading malware or leaking confidential data. Goofs, on the other hand, take risky actions, though with no malicious intent. They’re oblivious to security policies and unaware of the risks involved, often storing confidential customer information on personal devices in spite of organisational rules.

5. A Mole

Moles can be outsiders masquerading as insiders, gaining access to networks and systems they wouldn’t normally be able to. Posing as vendors, partners, contractors, and even employees, they can get privileged authorisation.

Why Insider Threats Are Common in the Digital Age

Insider threats, driven by financial gain, can come in many forms. Hacking, spoofing accounts, shady wire transfers, and erroneous emails are all potential threats. Malicious, negligent, and criminal insiders pose potential threats to an organisation’s network and sensitive data. Security teams must utilise risk management solutions, advanced detection methods, and user behavioural analytics to detect, monitor, and assign risk scores to any potential insider threat.

Uncovering Potential Insider Threats

The potential for security risks is heightened when individuals have data access. Such risks often emerge from insiders with login credentials. Companies are vulnerable to data theft and confidential information breaches, particularly from disgruntled employees and criminal insiders. Therefore, you must examine the indicators of risky employee behaviour from time to time and take action.

After all, customer data and intellectual property are at stake, so security professionals must take measures to prevent potential threats. So, how do you go about uncovering them?

a) Risks and Behaviors to Be Aware of

Employees with access to data can pose security risks. As such, appropriate insider threat detection insists you are aware of lures for data thieves, a disgruntled current or former employee, and other potential threats. Security measures, tools, and mechanisms are crucial.

Criminal insiders may steal intellectual property or confidential information. Remember, former employees also pose risks; stay alert for the following behaviours:

  • Unusual data movement
  • Renaming files
  • Using unsanctioned software
  • Viewing data not applicable to their role
  • Requesting escalation access
  • Departing employees

b) Detecting Insider Threats with Entity Behavior Analytics and Risk Scores

Most threat intelligence tools focus on network analysis, computer data, and application data while overlooking the potential misuse of authorised access by insiders. To ensure cyber protection against such threats, organisations must monitor user behaviour and digital activity for anomalies.

1. Interactive Indicators

Worrisome signs of an insider threat include disgruntled employees, attempts to bypass security, working odd hours, resentment towards colleagues, policy violations, and talk of quitting or looking for new jobs. Security teams must be vigilant in detecting potential threats, with measures such as user behaviour analytics and advanced detection systems helping to assign risk scores and monitor user activities.

2. Digital Markers

Signing into enterprise applications and networks at odd times, such as 3 a.m., can be concerning. Unusual spikes in network traffic may indicate someone is copying data. Plus, accessing resources, they don’t usually use or aren’t allowed to or probing data irrelevant to their job is a red flag.

Also, repeated requests for system resources unrelated to their job and the use of unauthorised drives, such as USBs, can also be alarming. All of these suspicious activities include network crawling and searching for sensitive information, sending confidential information outside the organisation, and sending emails containing sensitive information.

Insider Threats Statistics

Each year, countless insider cyberattacks are reported, though many go unacknowledged. In recent years, some have been particularly noteworthy.

  • 2018 saw a Facebook security engineer dismissed for using privileged information to stalk women, while a Tesla employee was accused of sabotaging systems and leaking data to outsiders.
  • 2019 brought the Capital One data breach, with a former Amazon engineer obtaining over 100 million customer records. They utilised their EC2 knowledge to bypass Capital One’s misconfigured cloud firewall.
  • In 2020, a former Google executive was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing secrets from their self-driving car division and passing them to Uber.

Mitigating Insider Risks

In the business world, external threats often grab the spotlight, but the risks posed by insiders require a distinct approach. Rather than focusing solely on unauthorised access attempts, companies must proactively provideusers with data access privileges. Insiders can even serve as allies in thwarting external attacks. Therefore, prioritise user access and security measures within the organisation.

Nevertheless, the consequences of unusual insider behaviour cannot be ignored, as data theft and other risky actions can occur with devastating results. With a clear understanding of potential threats and the right security tools and mechanisms, organisations can effectively protect themselves against criminal insiders and disgruntled employees. Stay ahead of the game with insider threat mitigation strategies.

How to Prevent Insider Threats

Insider attacks pose a significant risk to organisations. Malicious or negligent insiders can gain access to confidential customer information, commit intellectual property theft, and commit other security breaches. But it can be prevented. This section will discuss how security teams can proactively detect and respond to insider threats.

1. Security Policies to Secure Critical Assets

An organisation’s critical assets, such as networks, systems facilities, confidential data, and people, must first be identified. These assets should then be ranked in order of priority and current state of protection. The assets with the highest priority should get the highest level of protection, especially from insider threats.

2. Use Threat Detection to Improve Visibility

Over a third of respondents in a 2019 SANS survey on advanced threats admitted to lacking visibility on insider misuse. To combat this, tools must be deployed to track user behavior while continuously aggregating and correlating activity from multiple sources. Cyber deception solutions are possible, using traps to draw malicious insiders and monitor their actions and intent. Use this data to identify or prevent insider attacks.

3. Secure Sensitive Data and Intellectual Property

You must clearly outline and communicate your security policies to all staff, contractors, vendors, and partners. Ensure they understand their responsibility to protect confidential information and not share it with unauthorised individuals. Establishing these expectations prevents any confusion and provides a strong base for enforcement.

4. Encourage Cultural Changes

Encouraging a culture of security through digital transformation can help reduce the risk of insider threats. Employees should be educated on security matters to build a more secure environment, and their satisfaction must be monitored. Regular training and awareness sessions are essential to equip users with the right beliefs and attitudes and identify warning signs of discontent early on. Additionally, measures such as assigning risk scores to monitor user behaviour and using security tools such as intrusion detection systems can help detect and deter malicious insiders.

5. Detect Insider Threats with Cyber Security Solutions

You may have to address insider threats to protect your digital assets. Using only Conventional cybersecurity solutions, like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and anti-malware software, is not enough. Besides an insider detector, a strategy is necessary to identify malicious insiders.

This should incorporate multiple tools to monitor user behaviour while reducing false positives. Additionally, assign risk scores to detect suspicious behaviour and safeguard your confidential customer information.

6. Develop a Baseline for Regular User and Gadget Behavior

Centralising user activity information, such as logged-in user accounts and access logs, is the first step to monitoring insider threats. Any deviations can be easily detected by establishing a baseline of user behaviour along with job function, job position, and device.

This allows organisations to assign risk scores to user behaviours linked to events, such as downloading information on a removable medium or logging into their computers. With this data, they can identify potential insider threats and protect their sensitive data, trade secrets, and intellectual property.

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