Insider threats are internal to your business, and like anything of this nature, it makes them much more difficult to detect – and in many ways more dangerous. Just think of any TV series or movie where the good guys realise that the leak comes from within their organisation, and you’ll get the picture! In fact, 75% of data breaches can be accounted for by insider threats. With that being said, here’s how to recognise these threats and protect against them more effectively.

Know the threat vector 

The threat vector is the pathway for intentional and unintentional data vulnerability. It’s the weak spot in your systems, software, policies, or behaviour that can be exploited.

For insider threats, these vectors include: 

  • Malicious insiders –Employees and third parties who are authorised to use your network and use this to access to steal or compromise sensitive data.
  • Negligent insiders – This usually comes down to human error and isn’t intentional – although it can be no less damaging. This includes things like accidentally deleting files, failing to use IT security and password policies, or using external devices with insufficient protection to access your network.
  • Compromised insiders – These are attacks launched through insiders despite following cybersecurity policies. This includes falling for ransomware or phishing attacks that are undetected by the system, having credentials or devices stolen, or becoming a victim to an attack where the policies to protect them are not in place/aren’t strong enough. 

Indicators of an insider threat 

Some signs that you are at risk of facing an insider threat are the lack of appropriate protections. For example, if a business doesn’t have strong IT security policies and staff training to help prevent attacks or errors or doesn’t provide cybersecurity solutions and guidance to hybrid workers, the risks are naturally quite high.

In general, you should also look for the following: 

  • Risk behaviours –Visibly unhappy or angry employees or contractors, attempts to bypass cybersecurity measures, violating organisational policies, and noticeable changes in work patterns.
  • Digital behaviours – System activity that can’t be easily explained at unusual hours or where employees access files irrelevant to their role, emailing or sharing confidential or sensitive information to external persons, deliberate searches for high value data, and large/unusual download spikes.

How to counter insider security threats 

Cybersecurity teams are stretched thin, and that’s without considering the skills shortage that faces companies in Australia and globally. But there are ways to make this aspect of cybersecurity threat detection less time-consuming and more effective at the same time. 

  • Create transparency –Your IT security team needs to be able to see into every aspect of your tech infrastructure the way a surgeon can see into a patient. By using integrated systems, it’s easier to monitor and chase down sources of alerts as well as respond quickly.
  • Utilise automation – Take a load off your IT security team by using a system that automatically monitors for and counters insider threats. This helps eliminate minor threats and errors, bringing only those that require human intervention to the table. These systems generate reports that your team can use to investigate potential issues in-depth and spares them for moments when they are truly needed.
  • Have comprehensive policies and response plans –These give a framework to all your employees on what they can and cannot do within your IT infrastructure. This includes implementing zero trust to limit who can access sensitive data, policies for hybrid working and personal devices, password guidance, and multifactor authentication guidelines. This should also include training on how to avoid threats arising from negligent or compromised circumstances, and how to respond when a threat is detected. 

Insider cybersecurity threats need to be faced and addressed as businesses and sectors digitise but becoming your own cybersecurity expert isn’t usually viable or practical. That’s where the team at Otto can assist you, either supplementing your existing team to fill skills gaps, consulting to implement an IT security strategy, or running your tech department ourselves.

, How to Detect an Insider Threat in Your Business

Written by

Milan Rajkovic

Milan is the CEO at Otto – where his focus is changing IT up. Milan is highly focused and skilled in Storage, IT Service Management, IT Strategy, Professional Services, and Servers.