Insider Threats In
Cybersecurity

Insider threats in Cybersecurity can be tricky as they are invisible to an organization’s security framework. Did you know that according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 34% of all data breaches involve internal actors? Additionally, it indicates that employees have access to 17% of all sensitive data files.

So, what do these statistics tell us? 🤔

These numbers show how easy it is for insiders to steal essential data. They have all the right motivations and privileges to steal or export sensitive data (or, at the very least, assist cybercriminals in their cyber heists).

This situation makes anyone who has access to an organization’s sensitive and confidential data, network resources and IT, a potential suspect.

So, a CISO’s job becomes much more complicated since it requires identification and building a robust cyber defense against all those who have access to an organization’s data and resources.

What Is An Insider Threat in Cybersecurity?

Insider threats are security risks posed by individuals within an organization, for example, employees, business partners, vendors, and others. These individuals purposely misuse network access, disclose assets, modify or delete sensitive information causing severe security threats to the organization.

Examples Of An Insider

An insider is, as the term identifies, anyone “inside” an organization who has (or previously had) authorized access to an organization’s resources. These resources may or may not include an organization’s facilities, personnel, equipment, systems, networks, and sensitive data and information. Examples of an insider include:

  • A person who knows an organization’s business goals and strategies. It consists of an organization’s entrusted plans and means to sustain them
  • A person to whom an organization has supplied authorized access to its systems and networks
  • Employees (particularly department leaders) that an organization trusts and, therefore, gives access to its sensitive data, logs, and similar information
  • A person who has continuous, regular, or periodic access to an organization’s data and networks, including vendors, repair persons, and contractors
  • A person who develops the products and services and therefore knows the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s offerings, including pricing, costs, and ideas

In the context of government or similar public sector functions, an insider mole or pawn can compromise protected information, thus, causing severe damage to national safety and security. In addition, an insider threat for a public organization can include complacent, malicious, or unintentional acts that can harm that organization’s confidentiality, integrity, and reputation.

Types Of Insider Threats in Cybersecurity

There are several types of insider threats. This blog will cover the six basic types of insider threats. So, without further ado, let us dive into that:

Malicious Insider

A malicious insider is an employee who has authorized access to an organization’s sensitive data and information and steals this data for personal gain or exchange for some value.

Disgruntled Employee

A disgruntled employee aims to wreck the organization’s confidentiality and reputation by damaging data or disrupting business activities.

Reckless Third Party

Third-party includes business partners such as vendors, contractors, repairpersons, who compromise the organization’s security and safety through carelessness, misuse, and malicious access.

Inside Agent

An inside agent is more like a mole inside an organization who works to steal that organization’s sensitive information on behalf of an outsider’s demand.

Careless Worker

A careless worker is pretty evident from the term itself. This employee is the one who mishandles data, performs reckless security behavior, installs unauthorized applications, and takes cybersecurity protocols for granted.

Compromised Employee

A compromised employee is the one who has no idea that they are part of a threat. It might happen due to negligence or accidental click of a malicious link or download of a dangerous attachment. Common causes of a compromised employee include falling bait for a phishing email and credential theft.

How Does An Insider Threat Occur?

According to the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an insider threat can manifest security and safety damages to a specific organization/ department through certain behaviors, including espionage, violence, sabotage, digital threats/ attacks, and theft. Let us define the expressions of an insider threat in the section below:

Espionage

Espionage is an act of illicit spying on a foreign government of a public welfare agency, entity, or person. It is an intentional insider threat to obtain confidential information regarding financials, military, political and strategic advantages.

Violence

Acts like sexual harassment and terrorism within an organization happen under the expression of violence. The actions conducted under this behavior directly involve threatening behaviors resulting in creating a hostile, abusive, and intimidating environment within an organization.

Sabotage

The expression of sabotage involves directly targeting an organization’s virtual or physical infrastructure using actions like not complying with IT procedures, damaging systems and facilities, contamination of spaces and products, and intervening/ preventing operations.

Theft

This behavioral expression leads to stealing an organization’s financial or intellectual property. It includes financial crimes and theft of trading secrets, ideas, inventions, and proprietary products. Therefore, any action leading to personal benefits using an organization’s financial or creative property qualifies as theft.

Digital

All the behaviors explained above, i.e., theft, sabotage, violence, and espionage, create a digital or cyber threat for an organization if technologically intended. These are unintentional threats, including phishing attacks, whaling, etc., and intentional threats in which insiders perform malicious actions to obtain confidential information or disrupt the networks and systems to prevent the organization from conducting its regular operations.

Insider Threat Awareness

Organizations can predict and identify insider threats by observing user/ employee behavior. However, it requires a lot of proactive initiatives to potentially catch malicious insiders before they steal sensitive information or disrupt the organization’s operations.

However, there are still many things that an organization can do to combat and prevent insider threats proactively. Training your employees, building a cyber-ready work culture, and coordinating IT teams with cross-functional leaders are on the top of the list.

Training Your Employees

62% of the insider threats are directly related to employee compromise and negligence. It means that most insider threats are unintentional and happen only because your employees lack cybersecurity awareness. So how can you make that right?

It’s simple: Conduct regular anti-phishing training using phishing simulations so that your employees do not fall bait for an actual phishing attack.

As a security awareness officer, you must emphasize more and more on the ones who fail to identify and report the email as a phishing attempt. This action will reduce the chances of your insiders getting compromised and make your vendors, contractors, and employees become more cyber-aware, thus building a solid internal cyber defense.

Building A Cyber-Ready Work Culture

What do you think is better: reacting to the security mishaps after they happen or taking proactive measures to keep these mishaps from happening?

The latter one!

Thus, if you focus on cyber hygiene across your organization and train your people from the spot and report the risky behavior, including negligence and carelessness, to IT or HR, you can always keep insider threats from happening.

Coordinating With Cross-Functional Leaders

IT teams must effectively coordinate with cross-functional departmental leaders, especially HR. In addition, IT teams must keep themselves aware of the layoffs happening, the employees who were not promoted or not given a raise. This information can help CISOs prepare by simply putting the affected employees on a watchlist and monitoring them.

Final Words

Insider threats can be more challenging to detect and prevent than external attacks. They are invisible to standard security solutions that focus on external threats, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems. If an attacker takes advantage of an authorized login, the security procedures may fail to detect the unexpected behavior.

Furthermore, malicious insiders might avoid discovery more easily if they are familiar with the organization’s security protocols. Therefore, it is important to never rely on a single solution to secure your assets – The key is to diversify your insider threat detection strategy.

Moreover, training your employees to become more cyber-aware and identify and report malicious peer behavior is crucial. Schedule a demo today and make your workforce cyber-ready! 

No matter where the threat comes from, having a cyber aware workforce pays off. Let us show you how.