We are the enemy | A Look at Insider Threats

Every company needs to be aware of insider threats. The source of insider threats are employees or administrators that make mistakes or purposefully damage your organization’s IT Systems. Insider threats are pervasive and difficult to defend against, and they require proactive security measures and extensive training to defeat. A company’s worst enemies can be its employees—whether they know it or not. Let’s take a look at insider threats and what they mean for your business. 

What is an insider threat? 

An insider threat happens any time someone is trusted with privileged access within an organization intentionally or unintentionally misuses that authorized access, negatively impacting the organization’s information or systems. The insider can be an employee,  employee contractor, vendor, contractor,  business partner, or even a member of the C-suite, anyone with  access to the organization. More notably, insider threats aren’t necessarily malicious. An insider threat can also be negligent: this often happens when a system isn’t properly secured. But  disgruntled employees  acting for  personal gain  are a particularly dangerous threat. 

Why are insider threats bad? 

There are many  security risks  a business might consider, but insider threats are particularly dangerous. Employees, vendors, contractors, and other insiders, often need access to information to complete key business processes. Giving them this access is not optional, but it’s dangerous. Insider threats put security and compliance requirements in jeopardy and can result in a loss of data, embarrassment to the organization, and costly fines and legal problems. 

But because these insiders need access to begin with, the data is naturally vulnerable. Data that can be accessed (and will be accessed) can be abused. When someone with access misuses data, it may not be immediately obvious. 

According to Accenture, 69% say their organizations have experienced an attempted or successful threat or corruption of data in the last 12 months. This can happen at any time. 

In its new report, Gartner sees “the trend in buyer interest in insider threats with  buyer inquiries for insider threats in 2019 on pace to double the inquiries on the topic since 2018.” 

Major types of insider threats 

To protect against insider threats, it’s important to understand the different types of threat. 

  • Malicious intent. Whether it is collecting personal information of coworkers and patients, or planting malicious software into the system, the malicious actor works with legitimate credentials for his own criminal agency. Behavior analytics can help identify this. 
  • Inadvertent. Simple negligence is the most common form of insider threat, and also the single most expensive category of employee risk. Insider threats who fit this category might generally exhibit secure behavior and comply with policy, but cause breaches due to isolated errors. 
  • Lapses in security protocols. IT Administrators and Help Desk Admins can be particularly dangerous because they often require highly privileged accounts due to the limitations in IT systems they manage. Employees can use their access permissions to steal your data deliberately or put it in danger accidentally, and stolen credentials and weak passwords turn outside attackers into insiders in a heartbeat. The Microsoft infrastructure is a prime target for these attackers because of its importance in authentication and authorization for all users. 

As you can see, a core problem with insider threats is they can be subtle and unpredictable. 

How to protect your company 

It’s important for companies to be conscientious and proactive about their security and authentication services. Here are a few methods that a company can use to protect itself and its sensitive information: 

  • Begin with a risk assessment. A company should have a third-party audit to identify its potential insider threats, especially as related to the permissions that employees have, and how these permissions are granted. Access to sensitive materials , sensitive data, and intellectual property should always be restricted. Classes and courses from places like the Software Engineering Institute can help. 
  • Use 3rd party IT tools for additional protection. There are 3rd  party tools which act to reduce the administrative and user insider threat, such as a firewall around your  computer systems. These tools provide more granular delegation and can overcome limitations in native security while also providing rules which control how IT tasks are completed. Cayosoft Administrator acts as a firewall around your Microsoft infrastructure, reducing the chances of data breaches and data compromise. 
  • Implement auditing and monitoring tools. There are other 3rd  party tools available such as change auditing tools, which will improve your chances of detecting insider threats before they wreak havoc on your organization. These tools will predict behavior that implies that changes are being made to the system, and identify potential threat actors. 
  • Creating preparedness plans. If a threat is detected, the IT department must know exactly how to react to and manage that threat. If employees are detected accessing files that they shouldn’t have access to, there should be an immediate response. 

With the right risk management, a company can reduce its chances of insider threat, but there is no company that can eliminate it entirely. Instead, businesses need to take conscientious steps towards superior security, threat detection, and threat mitigation. 

Contact an expert to chat more about security, compliance, and efficiency for dealing with your Microsoft Enterprise. We are happy to help!

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