Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

How to Protect Your Business from Insider Threats


Organizations traditionally invest in IT security to protect themselves from external threats, such as hackers, spammers, cyber-crime syndicates, etc. However, the risks posed by insider threats go largely unnoticed and do not get the same level of investment.

Increasing your knowledge about insider threats can help you in implementing security measures that can efficiently prevent, or detect and contain internal threats that could otherwise be very damaging to your organization. In this blog post, we share some best practices that will help you prevent it altogether or mitigate the damage caused by insider threats.

What Is An Insider Threat?

Any event, which can have a potentially negative impact on an organization’s operations, assets, reputation, etc., caused by people within the organization is called an insider threat. Insider threats don't necessarily have to originate from employees. Former employees, contractors, or business associates, who have access to or have knowledge of the organization's security practices, systems, etc. can also be the source of insider threats.

Insider threats usually involve the theft of data or confidential information such as financials, intellectual property, etc., or sabotage of computer systems or resources. 

Is Insider Threat A Big Risk?

In 2020, the average cost of insider threats was $11.45 million. In addition, the number of security incidents due to insider threats has increased by 47% since 2018. Apart from the monetary costs, there are additional costs associated with investigation, remediation, regulatory fines, as well as loss of reputation and future revenue. Therefore, whether they are accidental or perpetrated with malicious intent, insider threats are a huge risk and should not be taken lightly.



Examples of insider threats

Here are some examples of insider threats:

  • Stealing of customer data via removable storage media

  • Stealing of hard drive containing confidential data

  • Intentionally or unintentionally clicking on links in phishing emails 

  • Accidental or intentional misconfiguration of network devices such as firewall, switch, etc.

  • Accidentally or intentionally forwarding confidential emails to unauthorized individuals inside or outside of the organization.

  • Misusing privileges to gain access to data or systems you are not authorized to access.

Types Of Insider Threats

Insider threats are generally grouped into the following three categories:

1. Negligent Insider

Negligent insiders are those employees or contractors who put the organization at risk through errors or policy violations. Their actions are carried out without any malicious intent. Falling prey to phishing attacks is an example of a negligent insider.

2. Malicious Insider

Malicious insiders are those employees or contractors who misuse their access to intentionally inflict harm on the organization. Their actions are usually motivated by financial or personal gains and in some cases by anger towards the company or management. A disgruntled employee stealing customer data to sell it to a competitor is an example of a malicious insider.

3. Infiltrator

Infiltrators are those external actors who obtain legitimate access credentials without proper authorization. Infiltrators join a targeted organization under false pretenses as a means of gaining sufficient access to launch an attack. Infiltrators pose the greatest threat to an organization because existing defenses can do little to foil an infiltrator who is aware of the security systems in place and is prepared to inflict the greatest possible damage.

Understanding the types of insider threats helps you identify vulnerabilities and build security controls that are best suited to mitigating the threats in your organization.



How To Protect Your Business From Insider Threats

Here are the steps you can take to protect your business from insider threats:

1. Perform Security Risk Assessments

Security risk assessments help you identify critical assets, their vulnerabilities, and the threats that could affect them. Cybersecurity risk assessments are typically focused on external threats but you can easily include internal threats to them. The assessment should help you make informed decisions about the risks arising from internal threats and to establish appropriate security measures to contain and eliminate the identified internal threats.

2. Implement Physical Security Controls

Physical security controls offer a simple and effective way of preventing unauthorized access to physical infrastructure devices such as routers, switches, firewalls, servers, etc. Without physical security controls, physical attacks such as breaking into data centers or sneaking into restricted areas of the office can be easily perpetrated by malicious insiders or infiltrators.

Depending on your business processes and risk levels, you can choose from a wide range of security measures ranging from no-tech solutions such as reception desk and sign-in log to high-tech smart doors and biometric access. Even simple physical access restrictions can mitigate the risk of theft or sabotage that could otherwise be easily carried out.

3. Implement Good Hiring And Training Practices

Insider threats come from insiders who at one time or another were hired and went through onboarding, training, and probation. Therefore, you need to effectively utilize this initial period of employment to identify not just the right fit but also team members who you can trust completely. Even before employing someone you need a thorough background check to ensure that no infiltrator with malicious intent is accepted.



While on probation, you need to have transparency on the job, i.e. all actions performed by the new employee on any critical infrastructure should be within the line-of-sight, either actual or virtual, of a knowledgeable peer or supervisor. The probation period should also be used to systematically integrate new employees so that the new recruits get job satisfaction, which in turn brings greater commitment.

Nowadays, the hiring processes are lengthy and demanding, due to which managers may sometimes ignore errors, poor quality, or suspicious behavior. However, such red flags should not be ignored. Those in charge of training, therefore, play a very critical role in weeding out possible infiltrators. And they should be supported by a carefully drafted hiring and training process.

4. Implement Identity and access management (IAM)

Businesses nowadays function in an increasingly complex environment using a variety of technologies, devices, and applications. This makes the management of access rights and privileges very complicated. The adoption of every new technology or application further complicates the matter and brings security and compliance challenges. Any malicious insider or infiltrator can be quick to take advantage of any lapse in access and privilege management.

IAM solutions help mitigate the risks of inappropriate access privileges and policy violations. It gives your IT security team the ability to manage access and privileges in an efficient and scalable manner. IAM solutions control how users gain an identity, the roles assigned, and permissions granted to that identity as well as the protection of that identity. In addition, IAM solutions can also validate the hardware and software of the device requesting access.


How to Protect Your Business from Insider Threats

Therefore, it ensures that the right users with the right privileges get access to the right IT resources from devices that meet the security requirements of the organization. IAM is a must-have tool for any organization that wants to maintain high-security standards against external as well as internal threats.

5. Harden Network Security

Your network is the gateway to all of your business resources. Anyone within or outside the organization who has access to the network virtually has access to your entire IT infrastructure. Therefore, you need to harden your network and you can begin doing that by implementing network security best practices. Here are some steps you can take to begin with:

  • Deploy network defenses such as spam filters, web filters, NAC, etc.

  • Deploy network intrusion detection and prevention systems.

  • Establish a baseline of normal network traffic behavior.

  • Configure your firewall properly and whitelist only those hosts and ports you need.

  • Do not allow critical systems to interface directly with the internet.

  • Segment the network.

6. Follow General Security Best Practices

In addition to network security best practices, you should also adopt IT security best practices to establish a functional and effective security posture that actively seeks to prevent internal threats. Here are some of the security best practices for ready reference: 

  • Implement a strict password policy.

  • Enforce a strict policy for use of removable media.

  • Make use of 2FA mandatory.

  • Ensure encryption of data at rest as well as in transit.

  • Deploy an MDM solution.

  • Purge orphan and dormant accounts.

  • Create a security-conscious culture.




Businesses nowadays are highly vulnerable to insider threats. On one hand, IT infrastructure and internal systems are becoming increasingly complex, increasing the attack surfaces and infection vectors. And on the other hand, IT Security teams have to do a lot more with less, and most of the security resources are directed towards external threats.

Insider threats present a huge risk to businesses and need more attention than is traditionally given to them. Although the diversity of insider threats present grave risks, they can be effectively managed with a layered approach using non-technical controls, such as policies and procedures combined with technical security controls as described above in this blog post.

Is your business prepared to deal with insider threats? Get in touch with our IT Security experts to figure out how you can help harden your network and mitigate internal threats.

Let's Deal With Insider Threats

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By: Hari Subedi
Title: How To Protect Your Business From Insider Threats
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0000

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