Insider threats are security risks originating from within an organization due to the negligence or malicious intent of current (and former) employees. The actor involved with an insider threat can be anyone from a clerk, consultant, business partner, or even board member.
The 2019 Verizon Data Breach report shows that over 34% of all data breaches involve actors from within the organization. Another report from Varonis suggests that an average of 17% of all sensitive files within organizations are accessible to every employee. This means that at any moment, from any given insider attack vector, you are at the risk of compromising 17% of your organization’s data.
Insiders often have capabilities, privileged access to sensitive corporate data and often the motivation to cause damage to your organization or profit from selling sensitive content. These insiders are a potential threat to organization’s confidential data, resources or IT infrastructure and can cause problems as intentionally as well as unintentionally.
Organizations must ensure that they identify, analyze, and build capable defense solutions against all kinds of insider threats, whether intentional or not.
What are the risks of Insider Threats?
Insider threats are often devastating because the attackers know the key to your fortress of information and can exploit this information in different ways.
In 2018, more than 40% of all data records that were stolen were a result of insider involvement. This shows that insider threats can pose a great threat to organizations because these risks easily get through basic security measures such as firewalls and antiviruses.
There are two main types of insider threats: the first comes from normal employees who are negligent about security practices and mistakenly emailing sensitive information to the worng recipient, executing a malicious Word macro or using inappropriate applications on corporate or personal device. The second comes from employees with malicious intent who is stealing data, in most cases abusing privileged access to sensitive data. Negligent insiders are easier to identify since these can be a result of poor training, carelessness or lack of corporate policies (e.g. Acceptable Use Policy)
Regardless of the type of insider though, they often pose a real threat to organizations and unless defense mechanisms against insider threats are put into place, companies’ risk to be on the verge of a data breach very soon. Due to the knowledge that insiders have, data breaches caused by insider threats can be fatal to an organization.
Insider Threats and Organizational Culture
Organizational culture has a significant impact on insider threats. Promoting a culture of cybersecurity can help reduce risks posed by both malicious and negligent insiders and enables you to take a proactive posture rather than a reactive one.
Most organizations aim to mitigate insider threats by focusing on identifying and responding to unwanted and negative behaviors. This involves conducting rudimentary training on cybersecurity about phishing, proper cyber procedures, and expected behaviors.
To combat negligent insiders, you can host targeted interventions that highlight the importance of cyber-hygiene and reinforce how important security practices are for your organization. You can even include reinforcement and support from senior executives in such interventions to increase buy-in from employees.
Growing a strong security culture within your organization can help you take giant steps towards the long-term prevention of insider threats and in the process, ensuring that everyone in your organization prioritizes security in their day-to-day routines.
How to tackle Insider Threats?
These are some common digital and behavioral indicators of an insider threat:
- Downloading or accessing large amounts of data
- Using unauthorized storage devices like USB drives & floppy disks
- Data hoarding and copying files from sensitive folders
- Emailing sensitive data outside the organization
- Numerous requests for access to resources not related to job function
- Accessing data out of unique behavioral profile
- Corporate policy violation
- Frequently in the office during off-hours & attempts to bypass security
Human behavioral warnings surely can be an indicator of potential threats although the most efficient ways to detect insider threats are digital forensics and analytics.
User Behavior Analytics (UBA) and security analytics help organizations to detect potential insider threats, analyze it and alert when user behaves suspiciously. Also, in order to ensure a holistic approach to effective insider threat management, it is important to formulate a cybersecurity strategy that involves the following elements:
- Involvement of executives: The HR leadership, security leadership, legal advisors, and executives all have great power to influence an organization individually. For tackling insider threats, all these individuals and groups need to work together to raise issues, propose ideas, implement solutions, and share information about any potential threats due to insider attacks. Not just this, but this group of individuals can also strongly influence the organizational culture positively to ensure that malicious intent and negligence are kept to a minimum.
- Micro-segmentation: Rather than looking at the organization as a whole, a smart approach would be to view each workgroup separately. You can segregate groups based on access levels or business capabilities. Once you identify the groups, you focus on the behaviors of each group to identify the type of insider threats they pose and the amount of damage they can do and then come up with solutions (such as training or interventions) accordingly.
- Predictive analytics: The most capable organizations take a step further with their cybersecurity and proactively identify individuals or groups who pose insider threats. By making use of historical data as well as external information about personas that pose a risk, organizations make use of predictive analytics to determine which individuals diverge from normal behavior. Once these individuals have been identified, organizations can then take appropriate actions (such as interventions) to mitigate the risk.
The key to account for and remediates insider threats is having a proper approach – the right solution to detect, prevent and protect against insider threat.
Apvera Insight360 is a next generation threat intelligence and operational risk platform that provides organization with proactive identification of potential threat activity resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people and systems, or from external or internal events. By understanding user behavior and activity in relation to corporate policies and services, Apvera Insight360™ provides context and insight in real-time for any anomalous behavioral usage patterns that may be deemed a threat. The platform enables organizations to effectively and efficiently deal with external & insider threats at all levels.
Insider threats are one of the biggest challenges faced by the organizations today, requiring companies a more holistic approach in managing risks possessed by internal users and their devices. In order to improve protection against insider threats, organizations should make use of a hybrid approach consisting of cultural engagement, micro-segmentation, behavior monitoring, and predictive analytics.
If you have any other questions regarding insider threats and how to tackle them, please get in touch with our team of experts on cybersecurity who have years of experience of driving organizations towards a secure future.