What Is an Insider Threat

Companies are always on the lookout for ways to protect their assets from external sources. It’s not uncommon to see security teams and mechanisms etched into a building. But is your company doing enough to protect itself from insider threats?

Insider threats refer to a risk that exists within the company, such as employees, partners, clients, and more. It is important for companies to monitor their processes closely to mitigate the risk of insider threats.

Continue reading as we discuss insider threats in more detail and how you can mitigate them.

What Is an Insider Threat?

As is the case with many things, threats in businesses often come from unsuspecting sources. Businesses often face security threats from internal sources within the organization, also known as insider threats.

This kind of incident usually occurs when an individual (who may be a current or former employee) with authorization to sensitive information or highly classified accounts within an organization’s network misuses their access.

Conventional security measures are well-suited to warding off external dangers, but they tend to overlook an insider threat even if it’s hiding in plain sight.

How Insider Threats Can Damage the Company

Insider threats may cause damage to a company through various negative consequences, including the theft of confidential information, unauthorized access, and system and equipment damage.

In essence, insider attacks can compromise the security, integrity, and accessibility of critical data and infrastructure.

These consequences are generally associated with malicious insiders. The exact consequences of negligent insiders can be hard to pin down or predict, considering that they do not possess a malicious intent to cause harm.

The main goal when tackling negligent insiders is to identify their negligence before it is able to cause any serious harm to the company.

However in companies without adequate information security procedures, persistent negligence could lead to breaches that last for years and affect a wide variety of data.

Following are some real-life examples where insiders, whether malicious or negligent, have caused significant harm to the company.

Tesla

An Elon Musk document claims that a malicious employee caused fairly significant and severe damage to the Tesla system by changing the code for the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System and sending confidential Tesla data to an outside party.

Facebook

In 2018, Facebook discovered that a security professional had been harassing women using company resources and data.

Coca Cola

According to investigators, a Coca-Cola employee stole the personal information of around 8,000 workers and stored it on an external hard drive. Coca-Cola informed its employees and provided them with no-cost credit monitoring for an entire year when they became aware of the data leak.

SunTrust Bank

An ex-employee of SunTrust compromised 1.5 million client records, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and fund holdings. The breach endangered the bank and its clients even though no other sensitive information was compromised.

How to Prevent Insider Threats

When compared to external attacks, insider threats are far more challenging to detect or prevent. They often go unnoticed in the eyes of standard security tools like intrusion detection systems (IDS), firewalls, and anti-malware programs.

This is because they use legitimate information to access company data or log in to systems.

An insider threat detection tool, such as Wolfeye, can help you monitor your staff by sending out alerts and letting you examine digital evidence for signs of suspicious behavior.

Suspicious Login Activity

Logins from standard users typically follow patterns that are repeated on a daily basis (or more frequently). Any login that doesn’t follow the usual pattern could be a sign of an insider threat attempting to breach your systems. This may include:

  • Attempts to log in from unfamiliar or strange devices, or from distant locations
  • Attempts to log in at unusual times (such as after hours, on vacations or on weekends)
  • Attempts to log in that appear to entail impractical traveling (for instance, a person logs in from Texas and then, an hour later, uses the same account to log in from Singapore)
  • An overwhelming amount of failed attempts to log in using the “admin” or “test” usernames, for no apparent reason

Generally speaking, you should look at user actions that don’t seem to follow the norm and make sure that any unexpected activity has a justification. A good monitoring software will be able to detect and alert you to any such suspicious log in activities.

Unusual Downloads

Most monitoring software like Wolfeye allows managers to view their employees’ downloaded or accessed files. This can reveal patterns that you can establish as a baseline for every office in your company. Based on this baseline measure, companies can identify any unusual or excessive downloads.

Notice how your sales team frequently downloads massive marketing files and how your HR department routinely saves massive payroll or employee paperwork.

These are normal patterns. However, when data downloads spike unexpectedly and don’t match any of the baselines, it could be a sign of an insider threat on your network.

Odd Employee Behavior

One of the most important signs of an insider threat is when employees act in an unusual or odd way. Effective monitoring solutions like Wolfeye can give you deep insight into an employee’s activities and behaviors. Following are some examples of suspicious activity that Wolfeye can detect:

Unusual After-Hours Activity

While every company values an employee who goes above and beyond, someone who has suddenly started using company-owned devices or networks during their after-hours may be worth looking into.

Copying Files to External Devices

The above-mentioned case of Coca-Cola is enough to alert any business owner. Most businesses forbid employees to copy company data into their personal devices, so it’s highly suspicious when an employee does so.

Unexplained Data Deletion

We understand the frustration that comes with cluttered storage. However, when an employee deletes a large amount of data without any justification, this may be suspicious.

Conclusion

All companies are vulnerable to insider threats, but unsuspecting companies usually get hit the hardest. Make sure you are always aware of your employees’ activities to prevent any insider risks.

Sources

Articles.

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