Insider threats are a serious concern in the realm of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, many organizations of all sizes either neglect or are hesitant to address this issue.
To address this critical problem, this blog post aims to highlight the various types of insider threats, the severe harm that they can cause, the user attributes that can increase the risk of such threats, and the security controls that should be put in place to prevent and protect against these types of threats.
Understanding insider threats
There are three types of insider threats businesses might fall prey to:
A negligent insider is an employee or contractor who inadvertently puts an organization's security at risk through careless or unintentional actions. This could include failing to follow established security policies, sharing sensitive information with unauthorized individuals, or falling for phishing scams. While their actions are not intentionally malicious, they can still result in significant damage to an organization's data or systems.
A criminal insider is an employee or contractor who intentionally and maliciously exploits their position within an organization to carry out cyber attacks, steal sensitive data or intellectual property, or commit fraud. They may use their knowledge of the organization's systems, processes, and security measures to carry out their illegal activities. Criminal insiders often have access to sensitive information and systems that make it easier for them to carry out their activities undetected.
Credential theft is a type of cyber attack where an attacker poses as an employee or contractor to steal login credentials and gain access to an organization's systems or data. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as phishing, social engineering, or malware. Credential theft is a common tactic used by cybercriminals and can result in significant financial and reputational damage to the organization whose credentials have been stolen.
The serious damage insider threats can cause
Theft of sensitive data
A breach could lead to the exposure of valuable information, such as customer data or confidential trade secrets. Additionally, confidential trade secrets, which are proprietary information that gives a business a competitive advantage, could be compromised. Such trade secrets could include product designs, manufacturing processes, or marketing strategies. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could be used to create counterfeit products or services, erode a business's market share, or damage its reputation.
The aftermath of a breach can have numerous negative effects on your business, including downtime. During this period, businesses may be unable to access essential data and systems, which could result in a loss of revenue and productivity. Additionally, downtime can impact customer satisfaction, as they may not be able to access services or support, which could harm a business's reputation. Furthermore, downtime can have long-term effects, as businesses may incur additional costs to recover from the breach, such as hiring outside experts, upgrading security measures, or paying legal fees or fines.
Destruction of property
A malicious insider has the potential to cause harm to both physical and digital equipment, as well as systems, applications, and information assets. In one instance, a former employee of a prominent tech company gained unauthorized access to its cloud infrastructure and deleted hundreds of virtual machines, which put the data access of thousands of users at risk. The tech giant was forced to spend a significant amount of money to repair the damage and compensate the impacted users.
Damage to reputation
This is an inevitable outcome of a security breach. Investors, partners, and clients may lose faith in your business's capacity to safeguard personal data, trade secrets, or other confidential information.
User attributes that aggravate insider threats
- Privileged access. Users who have high-level access to systems and sensitive data are at greater risk of carrying out insider threats.
- Disgruntled employees. Users who are unhappy with their job or have a negative attitude toward the company are more likely to engage in malicious activity.
- Careless behavior. Users who are careless with their login credentials or fail to follow security protocols can inadvertently put sensitive data at risk.
- Lack of training. Users who have not received adequate training on cybersecurity best practices may be more susceptible to falling victim to phishing scams or inadvertently sharing confidential information.
- Financial distress. Users who are experiencing financial difficulties may be more likely to engage in fraudulent activity
Build a resilient defense against insider threats
- Develop a comprehensive security policy. Establish a clear security policy that defines what constitutes insider threats and the potential risks and consequences associated with them. Make sure that employees are aware of the policy and trained on how to comply with it.
- Implement access controls. Limit access to sensitive data and systems to only those employees who need it to perform their job functions. Use role-based access controls, multi-factor authentication, and other security measures to ensure that employees can only access the data they need to do their jobs.
- Monitor employee behavior. Monitor employee behavior on company networks and systems to detect anomalous behavior, such as excessive file access or downloads, or attempts to access restricted systems or data.
- Conduct background checks. Conduct thorough background checks on new hires and employees who are being considered for access to sensitive data or systems. This can help to identify any potential red flags, such as prior criminal activity or associations with known bad actors.
- Foster a culture of security. Foster a culture of security within the organization by providing regular security awareness training to employees and making security a priority at all levels of the organization.
- Have an incident response plan. Develop an incident response plan that outlines how to respond to security incidents, including those involving insider threats. The plan should include procedures for investigating incidents, preserving evidence, and mitigating the damage.
- Regularly review and update security measures. Regularly review and update security measures to ensure they are up-to-date and effective in addressing the latest threats. This includes reviewing access controls, monitoring procedures, and incident response plans.
It can be challenging for businesses of any size to identify and defend against insider threats. However, with the assistance of an IT service provider, you can evaluate your current security measures, identify potential insider threats, strengthen your cybersecurity infrastructure, and safeguard your essential data.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation at your most convenient time.