An insider threat can occur when someone who has authorized access to an organization's systems and data misuses that access, intentionally or unintentionally, and causes harm to the organization's critical information or systems. It is important to note that an insider threat may not always be an employee; it can also be a third-party SaaS vendor, contractor, or partner.
Common Types of Insider Threats
Insider threats can come from employees, contractors, or business partners with inside information about an organization's security practices, data, and computer systems. The common types of insider threats include:
- Negligence: Carelessness and disregard for policies may result in risks created by employees. In some cases, employees have excessive permissions granted to a tool without even reading its content.
- Accident: Unintentional mistakes that put the organization at risk without malicious intent. An employee may have clicked on a phishing email by accident.
Intentional Threats (Malicious Insiders): Actions were deliberately taken to harm the organization for personal gain or out of grievance. For example, sensitive information may be leaked outdoors by an offboarding employee.
Collusive Threats: When insiders collaborate with external actors to compromise an organization.
Third-Party Threats: Risks posed by contractors, vendors, or other external partners with access to the organization's resources. One example is when a SaaS vendor's system is breached and affects the companies that use it.
Impacts of an Insider Threat
- Critical Data Loss: Valuable information can be permanently lost or corrupted, leading to privacy breaches and fraud due to unauthorized data disclosure. Limited recovery options may be available.
- Operational Impact: Disruption of production processes, leading to defective products and reduced market share.
- Financial Loss: Significant financial loss due to trade secret exposure, ransomware attacks, and other data breaches. Additionally, remediation costs arise as the financial burden of addressing the aftermath of an insider incident, including legal fees and system repairs.
- Brand Reputation: Damage to the organization's public image due to privacy violations or other abuses of trust.
How to Mitigate an Insider Threat?
- Determine the Critical Assets & Prioritize: It is essential to identify the critical logical and physical assets of your organization. These assets include networks, systems, confidential data (such as employee details, customer information, schematics, and detailed strategic plans), facilities, and people. It is crucial to understand each critical asset, prioritize them based on their importance, and determine their current state of protection. It is important to provide the highest level of protection to the highest priority assets from insider threats.
- Differentiate Unusual Behavior Patterns: Insider threats can pose a significant risk to organizations, and tracking them requires specialized software systems. These systems gather user activity information from various sources, such as access, authentication, account change, endpoint, and VPN logs. The data collected creates a model that assigns risk scores to user behavior based on specific events, such as downloading sensitive data to removable media or logging in from an unusual location. To identify potential threats, a baseline of normal behavior is established for each user and device, as well as for job function and title, enabling deviations to be flagged and investigated.
- Create and Implement Security Policies: It is crucial to define, document, and communicate the security policies of an organization. This will prevent any confusion and lay the foundation for proper enforcement. Employees, contractors, vendors, and partners should have a clear understanding of what is deemed acceptable behavior with regard to security. They must comprehend their responsibility to not share privileged information with unauthorized parties.
- Promote Culture Changes: Encouraging a culture of security awareness and promoting digital transformation can be instrumental in achieving this goal. By instilling the right values and attitudes in employees, we can reduce the likelihood of malicious behavior and combat negligence. To achieve this, it is crucial to ensure that employees and other stakeholders receive regular training and awareness programs on security matters.
- Increase Visibility: It is essential to use tools that can continuously monitor user activity and collect and analyze activity information from various sources. Monitoring activities manually is inefficient and error-prone. By using tools like Resmo, organizations can achieve a higher level of security, where every tool accessed by an employee or any changes made to critical assets can be detected in real-time and fixed before any security breach occurs. This allows security teams to handle other issues more efficiently while ensuring that the organization's security is always at the highest level.