Top 10 Tips to Prevent Insider Threats in Cyber Security

One of the most difficult problems in cyber security is insider threat prevention. The best firewalls in the world won’t keep out someone who has legitimate access to your network. There are multiple types of insider threats in cyber security, but the most advanced multi-factor authentication system on the market won’t stop someone who is fully authorized to be there.

Now you may be asking yourself, “What is an Insider Threat in cyber security?” An insider threat in cyber security poses a significant risk to organizations by individuals with authorized access who might misuse it intentionally, or accidentally. Insider threats can lead to data theft, fraud, or sabotage, making them challenging to detect. Implementing robust access controls, user behavior monitoring and cybersecurity awareness training is crucial to prevent insider threats cyber security

What is an Insider Threat in Cyber Security?
While this sounds a little grim, the reality is you can prevent insider cyber security threats. It takes a combination of tools and processes that can recognize and stop the insider threat before it goes from a potential problem to a major breach. The good news is insider threat prevention is possible.

Here is our take on the top 10 things you should know to prevent an insider threat in cyber security.

10: If You See Something, Say Something

There are a couple of parts to this. The first is the obvious, if you see a colleague doing something that looks unusual, then bring it up to Information Security. This is not about spying on your colleagues. While getting involved may feel awkward, the truth is we are all a vital part of the security stack. All companies large and small want to provide a safe environment, and workplace threats are a growing concern.

The second part, while less obvious, is conducting a self-audit to see if you are at risk yourself. Some tools, like Gurucul’s Gurucal dynamic security analytics platform, include a self-audit capability that lets you identify things you may not have realized were putting you at risk. Users are provided a self-audit much like a credit card statement to view their own risk-ranked anomalous activities, identities, access, devices, and other key data points in an easy-to-use web portal. When users detect an anomaly, the false positive rate is very low, and the context provided is richer and faster than IT can provide.

9: Educate Users With Insider Threat Awareness Programs

Users are an organization’s greatest strength and sometimes, unfortunately, its greatest liability. While user education won’t stop a malicious insider, it will go a long way to preventing an inadvertent security breach by someone who got phished, or misused a public WiFi hotspot, or left files shared where they shouldn’t have. It can also give them the knowledge they need to recognize a potential insider threat when someone else is doing something questionable, so they can say something. Awareness education is imperative to help prevent insider threats in cyber security. Education turns into part of the solution, rather than their being part of the problem.

8: Purge Dormant and Orphan Accounts

How many idle accounts are in your directory? How many users who are no longer with the company are still in there? How many access groups for legacy teams, that haven’t met in years, are still in the system? How many users have permissions they inherited from a colleague, who inherited them from a colleague, for a project that no longer exists, but still gives access to sensitive data? These are all issues that should be addressed on a routine basis the help prevent insider threats in cyber security.

7: Implement Strong Authentication

Having valid credentials makes an attacker’s job much, much, easier. Whether they gleaned them from a phishing attack, a compromised third-party site, or stole them from a colleague’s desk doesn’t matter. Simple user ID and password combinations aren’t enough. Passwords require a good minimum complexity and should never be used in multiple locations. In any case, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a must. Even if an attacker gets the user ID and password, MFA can prevent them from using them.

6: Control Third-Party Access

Some major breaches have happened when a third-party vendor was compromised, and the attacker leveraged that access to reach into their target organization.  A challenge with third-parties is holding them to the same security standards your organization uses.  You don’t have visibility into their environment or security controls, so how can you fully trust them in yours?  Access by third-parties should be carefully controlled and monitored to make sure someone over there isn’t trying to go somewhere they shouldn’t. Since third-party vendors are often treated as trusted and provided permissions, they must be accounted for when developing a program to prevent insider threats in cyber security.

5: Practice “Sentiment Analysis”

Sentiment analysis is a term to describe “figuring out what someone is thinking about.” In this case, it means applying analytics to determine if someone has become a threat in the context of cyber security. Is someone facing inferior performance reviews or discipline on the job? Dealing with life stresses away from the office? Having some financial trouble? Even without access to personal information, you do have internal information from HR, the card access system, local and remote logins, and the like. That information can be more than enough to indicate a potential risk well before it becomes a risk. Sentiment data from HR systems is vital telemetry to help you predict and prevent insider threats.

4: Detect Account Compromise

Compromised accounts are a major issue. Whether it’s an account compromised through phishing, a “drive-by” web hijack, malware on a workstation, or any of the myriad ways an account can be compromised, the result is the same – a threat inside the walls. That makes detecting compromised accounts an important tool for reducing the insider threat in cyber security. It’s especially important for organizations that haven’t implemented strong access controls since the accounts are easier to compromise. Detecting unauthorized access early can be the difference between telling a user to reset passwords and having to deal with a major incident..

3: Stop Data Exfiltration

What motivates an attacker and what they’re after can vary widely. One frequent target is intellectual property, which makes protecting the company’s data vital. Placing appropriate controls on the data, monitoring access, and preventing unauthorized movement can stop a malicious actor from achieving their aims even if they do manage to get inside. By analyzing efforts to exfiltrate data it’s possible to identify an insider threat and mitigate the attack, whether it’s someone shifting files to a cloud file-sharing site, downloading to a thumb drive, or sending file attachments to their personal email, they can be identified and stopped.

2: Detect and Stop Privileged Access Abuse

Privileged users can be the most pernicious insider threat in cyber security. While the details change depending on who it is – admins who can give themselves access to restricted data or impersonate other users, or engineers who have access to the organization’s most valuable intellectual property, or executives who can go anywhere in the environment – they could all become a serious threat. Fortunately, there are good tools for monitoring and controlling sensitive information. Additionally, there are some common behaviors that reveal a user’s effort to abuse their privilege which makes identifying and stopping them possible before the data is exfiltrated.

1: Monitor User Behavior

The most effective counter to the insider threat in cyber security is to monitor user behavior in real-time to predict and detect abnormal online user behavior associated with potential sabotage, data theft or misuse. User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) is the application that uses data science to create user and entity behavior baselines from historical access and activity. Once behavior baselines are established, machine learning analytics monitors user and entity behavior in real-time. UEBA ingests massive amounts of data and provides insight into what’s actually going on with users in your organization, as it’s happening. The key to predicting the insider threat is to identify when user behavior starts being anomalous to then take corrective action. That action can be automated and orchestrated for optimum effect in environments where you are looking at millions of user activities and events per second.

Conclusion: The Future of Insider Threat Prevention 

The future of insider threat prevention in cyber security is likely to be driven by advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies will enable organizations to analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and anomalies in user behavior, allowing for the early detection of potential insider threats.

Additionally, the integration of user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) with threat intelligence and predictive modeling will enhance organizations’ capabilities to proactively identify and mitigate insider threats. The continuous evolution of cybersecurity awareness training programs and the implementation of stringent access controls will be crucial in preventing insider threats. As insider threats continue to evolve, a multi-layered approach that combines advanced technologies, proactive monitoring and comprehensive training will be essential for effective Insider threat prevention in the future. 

Every organization is unique and should consider which points to prioritize first or swap threats in and out to suit their own situation, but there you have it.  These tips can help with our insider threat prevention efforts. We hope you enjoy the top ten tips for identifying and combating insider threats in cyber security.


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Gurucul has many resources to help your organization combat the insider threat, including: