Last Updated on 2 weeks by Touhid
Cyber Attackers are becoming more and more mischievous every day and their attack pattern is changing. Insider threat is a type of cyberattack that is mostly targeted towards organizations. The concept of potential insider threat indicators can’t be discussed in these few lines so keep on reading to learn more about it in full detail.
Insider threat is a type of cyberattack that is done through an inside channel. This means it either happens through employees of the company who misuse their access, or their accounts being hacked by hackers who later misuse it.
What is an Insider Threat?
Insider threat is a type of cyberattack that originates from a source inside the organization. It can either be done directly by an individual of the company or through the hacked account of an individual of that company.
To understand this more easily, let’s break the term Inside Threat into two parts: insider and threat.
Insider – Any individual who has access to or knows about an organization’s assets—such as people, buildings, data, devices, networks, and systems—under authorization is considered an insider. The insider can be anyone starting from the highest corporate position CEO to the lowest office executive.
Threat – Anything that might endanger or compromise the assets, operations, or security of an organization is usually considered a “threat”. Within the domain of cybersecurity, a threat might comprise an extensive array of actions or situations that could jeopardize the confidentiality, availability, or security of data or systems within an organization.
Insider Threat – When this threat is possessed by an insider, it is considered an Insider Threat. Insider threats can be carried out either purposefully or inadvertently.
It usually includes a current or former employee or business colleague who exploits their access to restricted accounts or private information on an organization’s network.
Because they have a degree of trust within the company, these insiders are especially dangerous as they have the potential to use their powers maliciously or unintentionally to expose security holes.
A successful insider threat can have a number of negative effects, such as a data breach, theft, the stealing of confidential information or business secrets, and the destruction of security systems.
Types of Insider Threats
Insider Threats are one of the main types of cyberattacks that lead to huge amounts of data breaches. Most cybersecurity preventions focus mostly on external threats completely neglecting insider attacks.
To know the potential insider threat indicators easily, we should know the types of insider threats. So, it becomes equally important to about all these types of insider threats to prevent them from happening.
As we have said previously, insider threats can be both unintentional and intentional. There are two types of unintentional insider threats.
Accidental: The first type is accidental insider threat which is done unintentionally by an employee of an organization. Examples of insider threat situations include putting confidential data to the incorrect person, unintentionally clicking on malicious URLs or email attachments, and mishandling and dumping private papers.
Negligence: Negligence and accidental are somewhat the same with a minor difference. In an accidental insider threat, the employee causes the issue by mistake but in this case, it happens mostly due to negligence and carelessness of the individual.
These kinds of assaults include falling for a spear-phishing attempt, evading security measures in order to save time, misplacing a laptop that might be used by a cybercriminal to get access to the company’s network, and similar incidents.
Malicious insiders are those who execute the attack by willingness. This kind of insider threat entails people who purposefully compromise the security of the company.
This person can be an opportunist seeking opportunities to take data that they can resell or use to further their professional interests. Additionally, this might also be the case for someone who is seeking revenge against a previous employer and holds hatred towards them.
Malicious insiders can also be broken down further into two categories.
Lone Wolf: A “lone wolf” is a person who operates alone and maliciously inside an organization without working together or hatching plans. They do the entire cyber-attack for their own benefit and without anyone’s influence.
Collaborator: Sometimes employees of the company or someone who has access to the confidential files team up with other competitor companies or even hackers to pass information for monetary gain. This information can also be passed to criminal activities.
The collaborator’s actions would cause corporate operations to be disrupted or private information to leak.
Another type of insider threat is the mole. Typically, moles are imposters who have gained access to an organization through their current employment or by being hired.
Generally, these individuals enter a company in the first place with the intention of stealing private data or causing internal damage to the organization.
The last type of insider threat is compromised threats; these are done by hacking into an employee’s account or by stealing their laptop or phone. Insider negligence frequently leads to compromised insiders.
What Are The Potential Insider Threat Indicators?
It is important to identify potential insider threat indicators to protect your organization from cyberattacks and avoid data breaches. Here are some of the most common insider threat indicators.
Weird Login behaviors
When an employee logs into the system, a similar pattern can be observed over time and this pattern can be understood by cyber security experts by checking the system logs.
So, when suddenly you notice an unusual pattern or behavior during this login it can indicate an insider threat. These unusual patterns include logging from unknown places and weird times like during weekends.
Accessing the Systems After Working Hours
What are the symptoms should be reported as a potential insider threat? Accessing the systems after working hours is another type of insider threat indicator that should be reported as a potential insider threat. These types of malicious insiders attempt to hack the system in order to gain critical data after working hours or off hours.
More network usage
An insider threat may be indicated by a sudden increase in data downloads, transmitting significant volumes of data outside the organization, or transferring information using Airdrop or Bluetooth.
Illegal sharing, excessive utilization of personal devices, and inexplicable data copying are examples of data handling abnormalities that may be signs of insider threats. Security lapses, leaks, and data theft can result from these activities.
Keeping critical information at home
If you notice anyone from your company keeping critical and sensitive files at your home or some other place, then it can be an indication of insider threat.
Remote login into the system is another potential insider threat indicator where malicious insiders log into the system remotely after office working hours and from different locations. Even the insider attacker stays and works in the office on holidays or during off-hours. So, these could be indicators of an insider threat.
Access sensitive files without authorization
It is never safe for any company when an employee obtains unauthorized access to automated information systems.
Therefore, a rise in the number of illegal attempts to access mission-critical apps or systems that hold private data may be a sign of an insider threat.
Furthermore, it becomes problematic when more employees want access to private documents.
Employees accessing cameras
If you see illegal access to cameras, recording devices, computers, or modems in locations where crucial assets are kept, discussed, or handled, it might be a symptom of an insider threat.
The integrity and security of private data and organizational assets can be jeopardized by this conduct.
Behavior Changes with Colleagues
Employees who are insider attackers may change their behavior with their colleagues. Their attitude or behavior seems to be abnormal, such as suddenly short-tempered, joyous, friendly, and even not attentive at work.
It is frequently seen that malicious insiders can use strategies to mask their data exfiltration endeavors. Changing the name of a file to represent its contents falsely is one such technique.
An illustration of this is when a worker conceals the real nature of a secret document by renaming it as something unrelated, like “2022 vacation plans,” or changing the file name of a crucial PowerPoint file.
The practice of transforming zip files into JPEG format in order to avoid detection is also another common technique used by insider threats.
Excessive Amount of Data Downloading
This is another potential indicator of insider threat where you can see excessive amounts of data downloading and copying onto computers or external devices. If you have a network team, they can identify which employee is consuming more bandwidth and downloading significant amounts of data within the office network.
Typically, the inside attacker will try to download the data, or it may happen after working hours or unusual times of the office day. By the by, the sales or HR team of an office needs to download a huge number of data files so, they are not an insider threat, but you may keep an eye on them.
Impact of Insider Threats
Already we have mentioned some potential insider threat indicators. Insider threats can be quite risky for any organization, and they can have a more serious impact than external threats.
One of the biggest risks of insider threat is a data breach that can lead to the disclosure of private data, client information, proprietary information, and other important assets.
Disruption of daily operation
An insider threat can have a significant impact on an organization’s operations if it is connected to manufacturing. A competing organization’s hired insider may introduce a virus into the manufacturing system, disrupting the workflow and ultimately leading to the creation of poor products.
Another huge impact of an insider threat is that it can cause reputational damage to the company. When your system gets attacked, client information can get stolen which reduces the reliability of your resources for the client causing damage in reputation.
An organization can incur financial losses because of insider threats involving theft, deception, or other unethical behavior. So, things like trade secrets, selling quotations, bidding details, and sensitive customer base, can be made public via an insider data breach.
This information may further impair the company’s operations and result in financial losses.
Damage to business relation
Relationships with vendors, collaborators, and consumers can be damaged because of insider threats because these parties may start to question the organization’s ability to protect their interests and data.
Reduced cooperation, the possible loss of company contracts, and harm to long-term business relationships might result from this lack of trust.
How To Prevent Potential Insider Threat?
If you own any organization, you already know the potential indicator of insider threats and how risky data breaches can be. So, to prevent this from happening you must know how to prevent insider threats.
Train your employees
Insider threat can be both done intentionally and unintentionally and in case of unintentional methods, proper training and methods can help prevent it. So, you can bring in a cyber security expert to train all of your employees about all security issues.
Do regular monitoring and auditing
You can use security information and event management (SIEM) systems to keep an eye out for unusual activity and suspect behavior in user actions, network traffic, and system logs. To find and resolve odd behavior or policy infractions, you can also carry out routine audits.
Employ cyber security experts
Set up a team of cyber security experts who will continuously keep an eye on and track all the cyberattack-related stuff. This can help to make sure that your network and system are always in check and that most cyberattacks can be anticipated beforehand.
Enable strict policies
Creating precise and well-defined security rules inside the company is important. These guidelines must be properly recorded and distributed to all partners, vendors, contractors, and staff members.
The intention is to remove any doubt and offer a strong basis for implementing security regulations.
If you become a victim of insider threat, the consequences will be very severe, and it can destroy your entire business resulting in reputation as well as monetary loss.
So, getting proper knowledge about this is the first step to prevent this from happening in the first place. Additionally, always keep a close eye on your employees and set boundaries for them.
We’ve discussed some potential insider threat indicators that may help you to identify the insider attacker of your organization. Hope the article on insider threat indicators will be helpful for you.
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