Cybersec Tips

Insider Threats: A Quick Guide to Prevention!

Actions all organizations should consider to identify, prevent and mitigate insider threats.

Written by
Sara Velásquez
April 20, 2023

There are currently an unnamable number of cyber threats hindering an organization’s information security, but we can certainly say that insider threats are for sure on top of the list! 

An insider threat can become anyone, including current or former employees, business partners or even contractors who have at some point had access to the organizations’ internal systems or sensible business information, and have the cruel intentions of attacking it. Since they are considered “faceless intruders”, they have the potential to cause tremendous harm by acting silently, while most of the organizational cybersecurity practices keep focusing on strengthening the perimeter.

Becoming highly aware of the existence of insider cyber threats is the first step to fight against them; establishing formal cybersecurity policies, procedures, and guidelines to prevent their materialization can help reduce shortcomings, prevent future attacks perpetrated by these silent malicious actors, and quickly recover in case of an actual cyber-attack. 

There are different methods organizations can employ to identify insider threats. Some of them include monitoring third parties who may be known for having security flaws and implementing controls to keep an eye on how people (especially employees) use your networks and exchange sensible information. Other important activities your organization might want to consider include conducting regular internal risk audits to raise anomalies, review system parameters and ensure all security controls are working accordingly. Moreover, never forget the importance of building on a cyber awareness organizational culture in which every individual can recognize possible insider threats, act according to their defined role and responsibility in terms of the organization’s best cybersecurity practices, communicate it to the corresponding area, and have it documented for future references.

Aside from identifying insider threats, organizations should carry on activities for prevention and mitigation. For instance, consider the following: 

• Conduct risk assessments in the entire organization: This includes knowing your “crown jewels” or critical assets, their vulnerabilities, threats, and possible outcomes (including level of impact) in case such vulnerability is exploited. Define your organization’s risk appetite, prioritize risks, and make sure to keep your security infrastructure updated accordingly.

• Make sure to have strong security policies and controls that cover how employees and stakeholders interact with your networks and systems. Include for example formal documents on: General Data Protection Regulations, an Incident Response Policy, Third-Party Access Policy and a Password Management Policy.

• Clearly define roles and access privileges according to employees’ needs.

• Conduct your own clearance processes when screening candidates or new hires to make sure you trust them and know them well enough to give them access to important business information.

• Ensure a secure infrastructure both in the work environment and at home (if your employees work remotely). This includes implementing strict access controls to physical and digital access points, strong user verification methods such as MFAs and biometrics, and secure devices by configuring software such as active directory, endpoint protection systems, intrusion prevention and detection systems, web filtering apps, and encryption software.

• Harden network perimeter security using a strong, well-configured firewall and enable surveillance.

Safeguarding your organization’s critical information from insider threats is a highly important task that must be done from different fronts. As part of your entity’s cybersecurity team, keep in mind all these suggestions to always be one step ahead of possible insider threats and avoid cyber-attacks from taking place at all costs! 

Sources: AT&T Cybersecurity, Netwirx, Seccuri

Image Source: Pexels

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