Insider Threats : Types, Examples, Impact, Detection & Mitigation

Insider Threat Blog

If knowledge is power, then in the business world, data is the bloodline. After all, companies spend a lot of time collecting different types of data, from sales statistics to customer information. All these are crucial to keep the business going—as any business plan requires such information to propel itself forward.

Unfortunately, the solutions to collect and store this information has grown more and more complicated over time, causing many businesses to have complex networks to facilitate this activity. In turn, this presents a whole host of problems in terms of security issues such as insider threats.

While you might be thinking these problems are mainly from external sources, there are, in fact, even more problems that you may face from within your organisation itself! These security hazards are widely known as insider threats.

What are insider threats?

Insider threats, as the name implies, are threats that come from within your organisation. It can be caused by a current or even former employee who has the credentials to access networks, devices, and other sites that hold data caches for your business.

These threats can either be unintentional, meaning that the individual did not mean any harm, to one with criminal intent, such as an individual seeking revenge. Nevertheless, insider threats do exist, and it is crucial to address this problem.

What types of insider threats are there?

Some unintentionally put your networks under fire. This is known as an unintentional threat. A simple example of this would be an employee downloading a file from the internet, thinking it is safe, while, in reality, it is malicious to your network.

Another type of insider threat you can find are negligent individuals who ignore any safety precautions when utilising business computers. For example, an employee may have ignored any warnings about phishing emails, still choosing to open one up without knowing what kind of trouble they are going to cause.

Finally, some intentionally carry out malicious activities. These are known as problematic insiders. They can be anyone, from unhappy employees seeking revenge to employees looking to make extra money by sharing confidential information.

Insider Threat Examples

What are the famous examples of insider threats?

There are many cases of insider threats, some of which you may have heard of before.

Perhaps the most famous of all examples would be Edward Snowden. This name is quite popular as the individual who stole millions of intelligence files from the NSA (National Security Agency). Another example includes a former employee of the popular brand Tesla, who exported large amounts of data and shared it with other parties.

While these may seem to be due to the nature of these entities being “large” and well-known brands, the same kinds of threats can plague your business’ security too.

What are the consequences of an insider threat?

There are a whole host of consequences your business can face when an insider threat succeeds in an attack. It can come in various forms, ranging from data loss to a damaged reputation. Nevertheless, any attack leads to a loss in finances, whether it is from the drop in sales due to loss of trust from customers to legal costs you have to pay for your negligence.

How can insider threats be detected?

There are plenty of ways that insider threats can quickly be detected through the help of direct and indirect indicators. The examples of direct indicators would be the export of suspiciously large amounts of files to another medium, such as an external storage, and abnormal activities on a corporate network. Examples of indirect indicators would be working in the work area outside of work hours and indications of misbehaviour and erratic moods regarding a specific individual.

While these signs will not directly point at an insider threat, the possibility of such a threat happening increases significantly.

Detect Insider Threats

How to address insider threats?

The only way to address insider threats is to minimise the possibility of it from ever happening.

There are various ways to address such a risk. For example, you can conduct technical security assessments to find gaps in your controls, run simulated phishing campaigns to test how well your employees are at facing these issues and regularly monitoring your data sources for any breaches. Other implementations include regular audits to ensure the right individuals maintain the right level of access and run penetration testing to see how vulnerable your security is from the inside.

Conclusion

Insider threats are always looming. While they can never be eliminated, having the right implementations set to reduce it is your best chance of keeping your business safe from any unintentional or intentional insider threats.

That said, if you are struggling to keep insider threats in check, do not be afraid to work with third parties to assess your security controls. This ensures thorough validation and analysis of all your networks, devices, and data infrastructures, ensuring that the security is well maintained and that the issue of insider threats is minimal.

Should you wish to discuss your primary concerns, schedule a no obligatory call with our experts. 

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