Insider threats: What are they and how to prevent them

October 5, 2020 | Vanessa Venugopal

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

Companies need to establish a secure system to avoid insider threats and other online issues that could destroy a business.

There are different online threats that businesses face every day. The most common of which is phishing attacks were the victim accidentally clicks on an unsafe link and log in. Other commonly known threats to businesses are malware, ransomware, weak passwords, and insider threats.

Most of these online attacks are due to what is known as insider threats. But what is an insider threat?

What is insider threat?

Most think that the word insider threat means an employee or a former employee intends to cause harm or steal data from the company. It might contribute to what is called insider threats, but there are also other causes of it, such as careless users or employee and negligent data breach.

Here are the latest statistics that show what causes insider attacks.

  • 71% are caused by unintentional or are an accidental data breach.
  • 65% are data breaches that happened due to ignoring policies.
  • 60% of data breaches happened intentionally.

How much will you lose from an insider attack?

An insider attack costs a lot of money for an organization. It may even lead to bankruptcy, especially for small businesses. It often cost an average of $270,000 up to $20 million. Sometimes, it depends on the data stolen and the size of the organization.

Furthermore, businesses who experienced cyberattacks will also need to pay for a forensic issue to discover the cause of the incident. This is to know what happened and what can be done to prevent future attacks. Investigating and spending money on an attack that can be prevented is a time-consuming task, and it’s an additional expense to the company.

Types of insider threats

We have mentioned earlier that inside attacks can be of many forms. It includes people who unintentionally forget or have no knowledge of their actions that can harm the company. And, some have motives behind the attack.

Listed below are different types of inside attacks that are commonly known. It is crucial to learn about these attacks for companies to be aware of and how they can prevent them.

PAWN

These are employees who are manipulated to unintentionally disclosing the company’s data. The most popular form of this attack is known as spear phishing or social engineering.

The employee unknowingly downloads a link sent to them via their email. The link contains malware that could steal the company’s data. Or, someone in person manipulates an employee into giving them the company’s credentials.

COLLABORATOR

Collaborator requires two bodies working together to spy or gain access to potential data. The term corporate or company espionage is one good example of collaborator attacks. A company or a government body will hire a former employee or another company to gather information regarding the target business.

Collaborators often gain access to intellectual property and information of customers. This form of attack can disrupt the flow of business operation and could cause mistrust and loss of customers.

THE LONE WOLF

As the term implies, these are cybercriminals who work by themselves. They have no external access or anyone to manipulate. Often these criminals have access to the administrative department or even the executives. They can access more crucial data from the system.

GOOF

These are employees or users who think they can surpass the security policies implemented by the company. An example of a goof is someone who stores vital information on the cloud storage without securing it or knowing that it is against the company’s policy.

95% of employees always try to bypass their company’s policy and security control, which can cause a problem for the company.

If you run a small business or even a large corporation, your next question is how to prevent these threats?

How to prevent insider threats?

INCLUDE TRAINING ON INSIDER THREAT AWARENESS FOR EMPLOYEES

Since not everyone is knowledgeable about cyber threats, it is crucial to educate your employees about it. You can train your new employees about security, threats, situations on social engineering, and spear-phishing, so they can have an idea about it and know what to do.

You can provide training exercises like testing your employees on situations by sending emails for them to recognize if the content is an attack or if it is legitimate. This training could help them spot threats easily, although not completely.

IMPLEMENT PHYSICAL SECURITY

Since insider threats also include physical approach, you also have to provide physical security to prevent such. Hire trustworthy people to follow the strict security instructions you have provided. Inform them to inspect every individual entering the premises and check for any suspicious item or gadget. Make sure to secure all rooms that hold crucial data of your business.

PROTECT YOU ORGANIZATION’S DEVICES, SOFTWARE, AND APPLICATIONS

Companies use software, applications, cloud storage, email providers, and a lot more to run a business. Without such, it is impossible to run an organization no matter how small or large. Therefore, implement updates when required and use security software to protect your data.

Here’s a list of programs you need to protect your organization:

  • Endpoint protection system
  • Spam filter
  • Web filter
  • Encryption software
  • Password management and two-factor authentication
  • Data loss prevention
  • Enable mailbox journaling on you Exchange Server

You can purchase some software that can also protect email from phishing attacks. It will block content or links from messages if it detects that it is unsecured.

MONITOR THE ACCESS FROM ALL ENDPOINT, EVEN MOBILE DEVICES

Always configure wireless intrusion and prevention systems to ensure security. Also, review if whether your employees need to have remote access on their devices.

SECURE A BACKUP AND RECOVERY PLAN FOR INSURANCE

Create a system that needs a backup and recovery plan. Your backup system should be implemented at least once a month to keep a copy of your most recent data. Make sure to test your recovery plan.

PROTECT ACCESS FROM FORMER EMPLOYEES

When terminating an employee, make sure they surrender every access and ID they have of the company. You can protect your company by working on a legal way for termination procedures. In addition, make it a habit to change every access, such as passwords and usernames, so that they won’t be able to access any of your business’s accounts.

LOOK AFTER YOUR CLOUD DATA

Since most businesses utilize the cloud to store their precious data, a lot of attacks target it. However, cloud services try to ensure their security, but of course, not all can meet a business’s expectation.

When choosing a cloud provider, make sure that their security policies are good enough to secure your data. Furthermore, be sure to check on your data regularly for any strange activities or changes.

RESPOND TO SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITIES IMMEDIATELY

Make sure that if there are any suspicious activities or behavior in the system, it should immediately alert the IT department on every channel. Using the User Behavior Analytics technology, you can detect risky movements on your system.

USE SECURITY INFORMATION AND EVENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (SIEM)

Monitor all login activities for years and every change that is implemented by using SIEM. You can manage all the logs and change the software that delivers enterprise-wide visibility.

PROVIDE SEPARATE ACCESS BASED ON DUTIES OR ROLES

Make sure to provide different access to your employees, depending on their job or role in the company. Separate access will ensure that not all employees can have a way into your valuable data. They can only be limited to their tasks. Furthermore, create different accounts for administrative and non-administrative activities.

SECURE ALL DESKTOPS

You can avail of services that can lock down your employee's desktops and some apps on it to prevent access to your organization's data. Not all employees are responsible for their configurations.

INSTALL A FIREWALL PROTECTION

Protect your server with firewall protection. It would ensure that no one can spy on the data being transferred in and out of your server.

CREATE A SECURITY POLICY

Create and implement a detailed security policy to ensure that your employees must know. Include outlines on what data not to be shared and policy on what should be done to employees who violate the policy.

Now that you have an idea about insider threats, what are the known attacks, and how to prevent them, it is time to implement all the said ways to protect your organization’s crucial data. Although these preventive measures are not 100% effective, it is better to practice all than to lose your data and, ultimately, your business.

Vanessa Venugopal

About the Author: Vanessa Venugopal

Vanessa Venugopal is a passionate content writer. With four years of experience, she mastered the art of writing in various styles and topics. She is currently writing for Softvire Australia - the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.

Read more posts from Vanessa Venugopal ›

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