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What is an Insider Threat?

The term insider threat refers to individuals with access to systems and internal information about the organization. The term can be applied to employees, ex-employees, temporary staff, contractors, or partners with authorized access to the organization’s data, files, and applications.

Insider threats are typically divided into the following categories:

  • Malicious insiders—are individuals with a grievance against the organization. Malicious insiders may choose to act against an organization by performing acts of sabotage, such as leaking, deleting, or modifying sensitive data.
  • Negligent insiders—occur due to unintentional actions performed by those with authorized access—for example, an accidental employee downloading malware delivered via email. The intent is not malicious, but the action still places the organization at risk.
  • Unsuspecting insiders—are employees targeted by cybercriminals. For example, an employee whose login credentials were stolen or their computer got compromised. While the employee may be unaware that a theft occurred, cybercriminals use these stolen credentials to launch other attacks.

We’ll provide a variety of best practices, technologies, and tools that can help you prevent insider threats in the first place and detect them when they occur.

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Best Practices for Insider Threat Prevention

Consider using the following best practices to prevent insider threats.

1. Set a Security Policy

Establish a comprehensive security policy that includes procedures for detecting and blocking misuse by insiders. The policy should also consider the consequences of potential insider threats and provide guidelines for investigating misuse.

2. Implement a Threat Detection Governance Program

Establish an ongoing, proactive threat detection program in collaboration with your leadership team. Ensure you keep executives informed on the scope of malicious code reviews, with all privileged users treated as potential threats.

3. Secure Your Infrastructure

Restrict physical and logical access to critical infrastructure and sensitive information using strict access controls. By applying least privileged access policies to limiting employee access and applying stronger identity verification systems such as biometric authentication, you can reduce the risk of insider threats.

4. Map Your Exposure

Your organization’s CISO should analyze your internal teams and map each employee’s likelihood to become a threat. You cannot rely on your developers to apply fixes and prevent insider threats if the adversary could be those individuals.

5. Use Threat Modeling

Apply threat modeling at a large scale to better understand your threat landscape, including threat vectors related to malicious code or vulnerabilities. Identify who might compromise your system and how they might access your assets. Understanding potential attack vectors allows you to put in place the proper security controls.

6. Set Up Strong Authentication Measures

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and safe password practices to make it harder for attackers to steal credentials. Passwords should be complex and unique. MFA helps prevent infiltrators from accessing your system even if they have user IDs and passwords.

7. Prevent Data Exfiltration

Place access controls and monitor access to data to prevent lateral movements and protect your organization’s intellectual property.

8. Eliminate Idle Accounts

Purge your directory of orphan and dormant accounts immediately, and continuously monitor for unused accounts and privileges. Ensure that non-active users, such as former employees, can no longer access the system or your sensitive data.

9. Investigate Anomalous Behavior

Investigate any unusual activity that occurs in your organization’s LAN to identify misbehaving employees. Behavior monitoring and analysis can help you identify and stop insider threats. However, you need to make sure you understand the monitoring laws that apply to you.

Best Practices for Insider Threat Detection

Consider using the following best practices to detect insider threats.

Related content: Read our guide to insider threat indicators

10. Identify Compromised Accounts

Detect unauthorized account access early to allow users to reset their passwords and restore compromised accounts. Behavioral analysis can help to unearth unusual patterns of behavior. Malicious actors can compromise accounts via phishing attacks, drive-by web hijacks, or malware installed on workstations.

11. Conduct Sentiment Analysis

Conduct sentiment analysis to determine the feelings and intentions of individuals. You can perform regular analysis to identify whether an employee is under stress, experiencing financial troubles, or performing poorly. Combined with HR information and user access history, employee sentiment can help you identify potential malicious insiders.

12. Monitor Third-Party Access

Carefully control and monitor access by third parties to protect your system against compromised third-party vendors and contractors. You cannot maintain the security of third-party environments, but you can minimize the trust you give to third parties within your environment.

13. If You See Something, Say Something

Encourage your employees to participate in the organization’s insider threat detection efforts actively. Here’s how employees can help:

  • Keep an eye out for threats – employees know each other best. Encourage them to notify the relevant stakeholders when they notice suspicious behavior. It may seem strange, but help them understand that their observations are critical to protecting the organization.
  • Observe good security hygiene – employees can unintentionally become a threat. They can help protect the organization by conducting a self-audit that assesses their own risk. You can provide employees with tools to perform this audit and provide the necessary information to observe good security hygiene.

14. Event Auditing

Auditing is a critical component of the threat detection process. It can help detect insider threats and fraud in a user’s activity history. Ideally, you should conduct audits regularly to ensure timely detection and prevention. Audits can help you discover standard patterns of behavior to use as a baseline when investigating anomalous activity. You can perform manual audits or use an automated tool.

15. Manual Audit

A manual auditing process involves the evaluation of several systems. The goal is to identify what actions users performed and connect these actions with the relevant transactions, roles, and other associated outcomes. Once you spot suspicious or anomalous activity, you can investigate further.

16. Automated Audit

Modern technology can significantly improve the auditing process. Particularly, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help accurately and quickly detect deviations from standard user behavior. Once suspicious events are detected, the tool alerts stakeholders. You can use various tools to capture data and provide capabilities that make the auditing process more efficient. Notable technologies include:

  • User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions
  • User activity monitoring programs
  • Employee monitoring tools
  • Event management software
  • Security information
  • Productivity software

Types of Insider Threat Detection and Prevention Solutions

Here are several technologies you can use for insider threat detection and prevention.

To discover more solutions, read our blog: Top 15 Insider Threat Solutions

User Behavior Analytics Software

User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) technology automates the security auditing process. UEBA software is designed to monitor employee activity over time, using machine learning to determine a baseline for normal behavior over a certain period. Once it establishes a baseline activity profile, it uses this information to detect anomalous behavior and automatically alert the relevant administrator.

Employee Monitoring and User Activity Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software keeps track of user activities, making it possible to identify and investigate anomalous behaviors. You can use employee monitoring systems to investigate individual users. However, the majority of these systems are not designed to provide an overview of organizational activity.

Security Information and Event Management

Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions aggregate security information from multiple sources to enable centralized analysis and management. These tools can capture events from various employee activities across applications and alert administrators when predefined events or activities occur.

Insider Threat Management with Pathlock

Pathlock Control is a comprehensive insider threat management solution that can detect, automatically react to, and proactively prevent insider threats within your most critical business applications. It seamlessly integrates with the leading business applications, including SAP, Oracle, and Workday, to monitor all user activity and stop any unauthorized attempts to access, modify, or delete sensitive data.

Critical business applications are often overlooked aspects of the enterprise application infrastructure. Over 77% of financial transactions touch an SAP system, which drives incredible costs for downtime. Downtime in an SAP system can cost over $1,000,000 per hour, and insider threats and sabotage can be a major driver of application outages.

Pathlock utilizes deep User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) to proactively detect potential insider threats. These algorithms, trained on real-life behavior patterns, can identify suspicious activity that, while not posing any immediate threats, might have detrimental consequences in the future. Whenever an incident like this escalates, Pathlock immediately revokes all permissions from the bad actor until the security team steps in for a review.

With Pathlock, customers can enjoy a complete solution to insider threat management that can monitor user activity to prevent risk before it happens:

  • Integration to the leading business applications, with a “rosetta stone” that can map user behavior and business processes across systems
  • Intelligent risk scoring, showing users’ aggregate risk profile across all of their business system access
  • Transactional control monitoring, to focus time and attention on key violations specifically, applying effort towards the largest concentrations of risk
  • Automated, compliant provisioning into business applications to enforce least privileged access and remove inherent access risk
  • Streamlined, intelligent User Access Reviews that highlight unnecessary or unused privileges for removal or inspection
  • Compliant workflows to drive risk mitigation and contain suspicious users before they inflict harm

Interested to find out more about how Pathlock is changing the future of insider threat management? Request a demo to explore the leading solution for enforcing compliance and reducing risk.