5 Steps That Must be Taken to Improve Defensive Posture Against Insider Threats

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Cybersecurity has fast become one of the biggest concerns for organizations, as it threatens the safety of their networks and customer data. Unfortunately, these pressures can cost a company a lot in terms of finances and reputation. This sense of vulnerability has made cybersecurity an integral part of many organizations’ COVID-19 recovery plans and a priority for IT experts worldwide.

Incidents of ransomware attacks and phishing scams have grown to the extent that they’ve drawn national attention. But companies still have a lot of work to do in improving their defensive postures. Let’s look at some actionable steps businesses can take to address insider cybersecurity threats.  

Human involvement in data breaches

There are many ways to improve the defensive posture of your company. However, the most prominent and controllable element that poses a threat is human involvement. 

Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigation suggests that the human element is involved in 85% of breaches. Similarly, in 90% of cloud breaches, human error is shown to play a significant role. 

Many developers are undertrained to develop software securely. In fact, almost 60% of individuals working in development today have less than five years of experience under their belt. Even fewer receive security-specific coding training. 

Consequently, many businesses end up compromising on their cybersecurity, which can leave them vulnerable in these challenging times. That’s why every organization needs to start prioritizing cyber security as soon as possible and strengthen its network against future security threats. 

Insider threat archetypes

Could an organization lose data because of some employees’ negligence or harmful interactions with the network? The answer is a resounding yes. Not all insider threats are intentional – in fact, most are mistakes rather than deliberate subterfuge. 

Some types of insider threats include:

  • Malicious Insiders: Contactors, former or current employees, or other business partners who intentionally exploit the use of their authorized access. They might have a typical behavioral pattern from the perspective of the internal IT team with malicious intentions. 
  • Mistake-Makers: Contractors, current employees, or other business partners who either become pawns themselves or fall for phishing scams of external attackers. They could also be misusing sensitive data inadvertently or exposing it because of negligence and lack of security awareness.
  • Imposters: Outsiders who steal credentials unlawfully and become authorized users. This gives them access to privileged user command and control, which they use for their own purposes. 

The costly impact of insider threats

Outsiders have limited access or knowledge about the network. In contrast, insiders are well aware of the weaknesses and strengths of the system. They also know which data leaked could cost a company significantly. 

Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Report estimated the cost of incidents involving careless contractors and employees to be around $3.86 million in 2020. Adding intentionally stolen data or malicious activity can double this number, bringing it to $7.56 million for insiders who intentionally steal data or conduct other malicious activity. 

Besides the financial loss, it takes time to contain the damage and a great loss of trust among customers. So, regardless of the insider threat archetypes, a data breach can cost you a lot. You need to monitor the activity and behavior of the insider threat archetypes so you can respond to any threats they pose. 

5 steps to improve your defensive posture 

Now that you know how important it is to protect your data, here is how you can improve your defensive posture to tackle insider threats. 

Train employees 

One of the main reasons employees mistakenly cause a security breach is because they aren’t trained in security and data management practices. Cybersecurity may hardly ever cross the mind of an organization’s employees while they perform their routine responsibilities. To convert these employees into defensive assets, you need to help them understand what’s at stake. 

All of your employees should at least need to be able to identify personally identifiable information (PII). This information includes names, email addresses, identifying codes, social security numbers, telephone numbers, etc. 

Your training should not only help employees identify what information they’re protecting but why it needs to be protected. Holding awareness sessions can help to promote privacy awareness in the workplace. Such training should address:

  • What happens if organizations fail to protect the privacy of clients, customers, and colleagues
  • What happens to individuals who cause failures
  • Common threats and how they can be identified/prevented

Establish, communicate, and enforce 

You need to help your employees realize their responsibility to protect PII. Besides training, you need to establish, communicate, and enforce data management standards. You can support these efforts with the help of employee monitoring software. 

Data management standards can be enforced with the help of employee monitoring software in the following ways:

  • Restrict information access and use multi-factor authentication 
  • Evaluate your current data management practices 
  • Prevent escalation of accidents into cybersecurity incidents 
  1. Protect the perimeter

To prevent your company from sustaining data loss because of a breach, you need to protect your perimeters with data loss prevention (DLP) software and strong security vendor partnerships. This software will help you maintain a strong defense against insider threats. In addition, it will consistently monitor network activity to detect any unauthorized data movement. 

You can also set up SSL for your web security, which your host should provide. According to web developer Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, you should never have to pay extra for SSL protection when creating a new website. 

“If you’re thinking about paying for a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate — don’t,” says Stevens. “Legitimate hosts will give it to you for free. You definitely need it, though, because Google has already started the process of degrading search engine rankings for those that don’t, but no need to pay to get one. Make sure you read reviews or detailed info from your hosting company before signing up.”

Anticipate privileged user misuse 

Every company has privileged users who may have legitimate access to critical network applications, IT systems, and company data. This can lead to misuse of authority, but the abuse is often difficult to detect. These breaches can take months or years to be discovered, which can cause a delay in identifying and defending against these threats. 

Proper policies must be put in place for onboarding new employees and transitioning out former employees, including limiting or closing accounts where necessary. 

Develop a proactive approach

The way to overcome vicious insider threats is to have a proactive approach. You can’t wait for an attack to get your guards up. You should employ oversight technologies like employee monitoring software and SaaS to obtain user and network behavior analytics. This data will assist in anomaly assessment, threat detection, and data loss prevention. 

Wrapping Up

Improving your defensive posture against insider threats won’t cost you as much as a data breach. Besides the cost, brand erosion, regulatory consequences, and customer loyalty can turn a cybersecurity incident into a nightmare for any organization. 

However, businesses can continue running smoothly and tackle security breaches with minimum loss by setting up a proactive defensive posture and data management. These steps will position them to move forward and operate more safely and effectively in the era of Big Data. 

Do you want to know how Abusix can help you in securing your networks? Talk to us!

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