Insider threats are increasingly becoming the main cause of data breaches for businesses and represent one of the biggest cybersecurity risks to your confidential data.
Many businesses and organizations are realizing the need to implement security solutions to help protect their data from insider threats.
Data breaches have the potential to expose large amounts of sensitive or confidential information from your private network. Most people assume that the main cause of data breaches are external hackers, but in fact, this often isn’t the case. Insider threats represent a big risk to businesses, however, there are ways you can protect your data.
SecureTeam are cybersecurity experts that provide a range of cybersecurity consultation solutions to a variety of businesses. They have used their experience from previous data breaches to create this handy guide and help other businesses protect their data from insider threats.
What are insider threats?
Insider threats are threats to your cybersecurity that come from within your network, rather than an external hacker attempting to gain access. These threats mainly fall into two categories, Employees, former employees or third party contractors and external attackers who use social engineering or opportunistic weaknesses to gain access to your network.
There is some crossover between the two groups and often one relies on the other to cause a breach. Insider threats include:
An accidental insider
An accidental insider is an employee or ex-employee who accidentally exposes confidential data through negligence or bad security practices. This can include opening a malicious leak in an email, losing a laptop or hard drive, exposing credentials or sending sensitive data to the wrong recipient.
The important factor here is that there isn’t a malicious intention, rather an honest mistake. This threat can be easily neutralized with employee coaching and good security practices within your organization.
Unlike the above example, this employee or former employee is intentionally leaking sensitive data with the intention of harming the business or profiting off the data breach. Malicious insiders might have legitimate access to private data that they abuse for these purposes, or they might intentionally leak credentials or access to a malicious outsider to exploit.
Third-party consultants or contractors
If your business or organisation often grant third-party contractors or consultants access to your network you might be creating a data breach risk. They could potentially use that access to intentionally or unintentionally view private data which would count as a data breach. The threat could also extend to an intentional leak of that sensitive data.
It is important that you routinely check on the security access of former employees, ensuring that they are no longer able to access previous accounts and private data once they have left the business.
This threat is technically external, however, social engineers rely heavily on social interaction with insiders to attempt to manipulate them into providing access to private information or breaking standard security procedures.
As such, they rely on accidental insider threats to achieve access to confidential information.
Opportunistic attackers will try and make use of stolen or lost credentials or equipment such as laptops to gain access to your network and data, either remotely or on-site.
Weak credentials and employees who re-use password increase this risk as cybercriminals can exploit this to gain access to emails, websites and bank accounts. Lost equipment not only exposes the data that was stored on it but also creates a weakness for malicious outsiders to exploit.
How to protect yourself from insider threats
The different insider threats can easily cause a data breach, however, there are ways to protect yourself from these insider threats and guard your sensitive data through best security practices, such as:
Identifying all of your sensitive data
Identifying all of the confidential and sensitive data that your business has stored on its network is the first way to protecting it. It is also wise to create a list of who in your organization has access to this information. By gathering all of this information you are in a position to properly secure it by creating a data protection policy, which leads us to our next suggestion.
Create a data protection policy
Your data protection policy should outline your organization’s guidelines with how to handle sensitive data, privacy and cybersecurity. By explaining what is expected of them and how they can help to reduce the risk of insider threats, your staff are much less likely to be accidental insiders and cause a data breach.
Culture of accountability
Your data protection policy should also outline the consequences should an employee breach this policy. This will help you to create a culture of accountability in your organisation where employees are aware of their responsibilities in regards to data protection and managers are aware of their responsibilities to their employees.
Encrypting all confidential data
This is a pretty obvious step to protecting your data, but you would be surprised how often sensitive data isn’t securely encrypted. It is important that you check that your encryption software and keep your cybersecurity up to date.
Review user access
You should be routinely reviewing who has access to your confidential data in your organisation and remove any access that is no longer necessary or deleting login accounts of those who have left the organization.
This prevents former employees accidentally or intentionally leaking data that they no longer have the right to access.
Use stronger credentials and access restrictions
You can prevent stolen credentials being used to access your network by enforcing stronger credentials and access restriction in your organization. Assign randomly generated passwords, routinely changing login details, preventing concurrent logins and restricting access to a physical location and on-site can all help to prevent opportunistic access to your network.
It is wise to assume that your organization will come under attack eventually and that it is best to prepare a defense against this threat. By creating a plan to handle threats you are much more capable of handling the issue when it arrises and preventing it from becoming a full data breach.
The risk of an insider data breach will continue to pose a threat to your organization and could cause a significant loss of revenue and reputation, but by taking the threat seriously and making some changes and adopting best security practices you can protect your data.