Identifying Potential Internal Threats

How exactly do you know when a potential internal threat exists to your cybersecurity?

Sometimes it’s an explanation that just seems “off.”
Sometimes it’s a gut feeling around trust that you try to rationalize away.
And sometimes, you don’t have a clue until it’s too late.

No one likes to think an employee, vendor, or other business relationship would do anything to compromise their business, however that threat is real. Cyber-attacks can come from the inside – whether deliberate or not, and the warning signs are usually there. Do you know what they are?

What defines an insider threat?

Simply put, it stems from people who have a connection to your business. Current or former employees, vendors, contractors, partners – people who have legitimate reasons to access your networks, systems, or data and can potentially damage your business using those privileges.

It’s important to recognize that not all insider threats are intentionally malicious. It’s estimated that most compromises result from reckless or careless activities that are often missed or overlooked. Either way, over a third of organizations have been affected by an internal attack, and 70% overall say they are more concerned about internal threats than external ones.

Understand what to look for.

Internal threat indicators are often dismissed, meaning damage can be done over a more extended period and become costly. Knowing what signs to look for will help you act quickly and develop internal safeguards and policies to reduce their impact.

Unintentional compromise

Stress, distraction, the pressure of deadlines, or being short-staffed can contribute to accidentally clicking on a phishing email, miskeying a code, or accepting a questionable request. Another often missed opportunity for data loss is your employee’s personal equipment, like a cell phone or home computer. Do they have up-to-date virus software or password management? Is a PIN required to open a personal cell phone if it’s misplaced? Accidents happen, so it’s critical to arm employees with knowledge about social engineering and the due diligence required to protect themselves and your organization.

Concerning changes in behavior

Emotional, financial, or relationship stressors may entice some to participate in acts they wouldn’t consider otherwise. Listen for verbal dissatisfaction about the company, pay, and work expectations. Watch for attitude and performance changes or changes in time spent working off-hours. Addressing behavior changes will reduce your potential risk.

Data or technology actions

A sudden increase in accessing shared drives, copying large volumes of files, or emailing documents to personal accounts could indicate your data is a target internally. Watch for someone accessing files or folders that don’t relate to their job role or trying to get around security protocols, like tampering with anti-virus or changing privileges.

Accountability and trust issues

Employee training is only as good as employees’ willingness to participate and apply what they have learned. Finding ways to reinforce good behavior and call out careless actions is essential. Unfortunately, some will continue to do what they want or don’t want without regard to your business’s safety. Reinforce that behaviors are monitored, and everyone is expected to act responsibly.

Weak security and unsafe practices

So, where does the fault lie if your house gets burglarized because you left the front door open? Poor digital and physical security protocols can increase the chance of exploiting a vulnerability. Is the company server behind a locked door? Are visitors to your business being properly vetted? Be aware of and address opportunities for anyone to damage or steal property.

Take preventative measures.

Recognizing behavioral factors, warning signs, and areas of vulnerability is the first step in protecting your organization. Still, things can escalate quickly without an action plan in place that will detect and reduce the impact of an internal cyber-attack.

Here’s a checklist of things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Complete a risk assessment

  • Pinpoint and address your vulnerabilities

  • Identify and protect critical assets

  • Document governance and control policies

  • Enact entitlement controls and access privileges

  • Invest in data loss prevention (DLP) tools

  • Incorporate integrated security technologies

  • Maintain strong security and patch management

  • Reinforce your email security

  • Provide regular cybersecurity user training and testing

  • Do additional training for those in highly targeted positions

  • Encourage a strong culture of trust and accountability

Want to be better prepared against insider threats?

Your business needs a security strategy that brings together people, processes, and technology to defend your organization effectively.

CCB is here to help you with:

  • Risk and vulnerability assessments
  • Consulting on best practices for security policies and protocols
  • End user security awareness training and testing with reporting
  • A customized integrated security approach for your organization
  • Managed Detection and Response
We have solutions – so you can avoid a situation.

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