How Can You Detect an Insider Threat?

By Veriato - June 19, 2020

How Can You Detect an Insider Threat?

Data security is a term we’re all pretty used to hearing by now, but cybercriminals are only one part of the equation. Did you know that internal employees can also pose a threat to your business?

Insider threats are caused by internal staff, employees, or partners who either wish to cause the company harm - or who simply compromise your organization’s data security through carelessness or lack of training.

Take a look at some of the ways you can identify, address, and prevent an insider threat from damaging your business.

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What is an Insider Attack?

Simply put, an insider attack is a malicious attack that is caused by an authorized user of a particular network or system.

The primary difference between insider attacks and external cybercrime is the fact that insider attacks are always carried out from within this organization. That means that these users have clearance that isn’t available to outside attackers.

But, what are the different types of insider threats? Insider attacks are divided into three separate categories:

Malicious Intent

The insider attacks that cause the most disruption in the corporate workplace are typically those that were instigated purposefully. In many cases, malicious insider threats will be caused by an unhappy employee or workers who are expecting to leave the company.

Malicious attacks can be difficult to intercept. And, unlike accidental breaches, these incidences are not tied to factors like:

  • Company-wide education
  • IT training
  • Updated security protocols

Instead, prevention and intervention are the ideal strategies for stopping a malicious attacker in their tracks.

Malicious attacks are often possible because the user has exclusive or specialized access to the company’s network or devices. 

Compromised Users

Whether the threat is initiated inside or outside of the network, most attackers will look for a way to infiltrate the system using active credentials. Internal employees who become complicit in this type of attack are unaware that they are involved, and are typically used as a proxy for the cybercriminal to utilize their permissions or access to the system.

Since compromised users participate in the threat unknowingly (for both the employee or vendor and employer), this is arguably the most dangerous type of attack.

Your employees can compromise your network with a number of simple online activities, such as:

  • Clicking on an infected link
  • Falling for a phishing email
  • Downloading a compromised file
  • Connecting to unsecured wireless networks

The best way to cover all bases is to use a comprehensive computer monitoring system that includes features like:

  • Remote AND in-network monitoring
  • Multi-device compatibility
  • User behavior analytics
  • Scalable endpoint monitoring
  • Video playback of onscreen activity
  • File download protection
  • Anomaly detection
  • Dark web tracking
  • Real-time user reporting

Prevention and quick intervention is the most critical way to reduce the impact of a compromised attack.

Careless Users

Rather than being unknowingly targeted by a third-party malicious user, careless users pose a risk to your network’s data security simply out of disregard or negligence.

Careless users make it easy for attackers to access your system. Here are just a few examples of mistakes negligent users make that can compromise your system:

  • Using weak passwords
  • Leaving devices unlocked
  • Accessing sensitive information from public devices
  • Sending or receiving unsecured emails

But, training and education is also a major component of preventing negligence and careless actions that can compromise your system. Ensuring that all employees understand how to properly access and utilize their digital information is key for preventing careless attacks from happening in the first place.

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What are Insider Threat Indicators?

As with any cyberattack, prevention is key for managing the risk. One wrong action can cost your company millions, so it’s best to keep threats contained from the start.

There are four primary indicators that can flag the presence of an insider threat: recruitment, information collection, information distribution, and suspicious behavior.

Recruitment

It’s possible that outside offenders are using your employees as an avenue to gain access to your digital information. In these cases, it’s important to look for activities that might connect employees to third-party threats. Some examples are:

  • Suspicious foreign or external contacts
  • Exchanges of funds or other incentives through company networks
  • Unreported payments or transactions that seem out of place

Using computer monitoring software is a sound way to prevent these interactions by flagging questionable behavior, and providing a way to require multi-step authentication.

Information Collection

Another way that insider attacks can make their way into your operation is through information siphoning and collection. That means that the user is trying to obtain digital collateral through methods like:

  • Copying or downloading files to external devices
  • Storing data via email or the cloud using unapproved credentials or platforms
  • Asking other users to take advantage of their exclusive access to information that the attacker can not obtain themselves
  • Handing digital assets that fall outside of their typical duties or job description

When it comes to preventing the spread of this information, protecting your network’s entry points is especially important. This includes data encryption, secure password storage, multi-factor authentication, chat/email monitoring, and keystroke logging.

Information Distribution

Collecting the information is the first step, but the above securities features can also be used to keep inside attackers from distributing compromised data.

Using a top-notch data security program makes it much more difficult for users to remove information from the network or devices they’re trying to access.

Not only can monitoring programs stop the user from obtaining this data in the first place, but enforcing increased information clearance and file/document tracking will stop them from spreading around what they’ve collected.

Suspicious Behavior

In many situations, the first sign of a potential insider attack is unusual behavior in the workplace. Whether you’re employees work remotely or onsite, there are a few different ways to track employee behavior online and find usage anomalies.

Look for a computer monitoring program that includes these features:

  • Timekeeping
  • User activity (active or passive sessions)
  • Session duration
  • Application activity
  • Geolocation
  • Dark web tracking

Monitoring what your employees do while they’re online is the easiest way to spot suspicious behavior and address potential threats as quickly as possible. For the most comprehensive insider threat detection and digital asset protection on the market, try Veriato risk-free.

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