October 20

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4 Ways to Prevent Insider Threats and Attacks

By Hector Velez


The average cost of insider threats to an organization sits at an estimated 8 million dollars per year.

Even acknowledging this data is skewed by large companies and their sometimes astronomically expensive breaches, it still should be clear insider attacks should be a bigger concern than they currently are in the security landscape.

The reality is many business owners and corporate decision-makers just aren't security professionals. It can be difficult for them to understand the nature of security threats. Then, even when they do, they may not know how to prevent them.

Luckily, the best practices to help prevent insider attacks aren't actually very hard to adopt. With just a few changes, you can protect your company from the bulk of serious insider attacks (and reduce the expense of any that still manage to get through).

Tip 1: Control Access Privileges

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is allowing users to access parts of their network they have no reason to be. This has the potential to make you extremely vulnerable to both inside and outside attack.

Very few employees need access to everything. Even high ranking employees shouldn't need access to most of your network's security settings. 

Exactly how strict you should keep network access depends on the nature of your business. At the very least, the majority of employees should not be able to access sensitive data or key network settings. Those are areas where the most devastating of attacks, both intentional and accidental, tend to occur.

As an aside, also make sure you are using updated, modern operating systems. If a proficient hacker can just exploit your outdated OS to get whatever privileges they want, it defeats the purpose of tiered privileging. 

While the rest of our tips are comparable in terms of importance, this tip should probably be considered the most important.

Tip 2: Vet Your Employees

Some people intend you harm. It's the unfortunate truth of the world we live in. Either because they have the opportunity to profit from harming your company or simply because they don't like you, there are people who will exploit access to your network in a way that damages your company and clients.

This is why you need to vet employees. Do your due diligence when hiring and at least check for a potential hire's criminal history and any other red flags. Even if you believe, for example, an ex-felon is reformed, you should at least know about that history so your decision to hire them is informed.

Exactly how thorough you need to be depends on the nature of the position you're hiring for. Will the employee have access to many important aspects of your business? Then you need to make sure they can be trusted in their position.

It isn't just a criminal history you're checking for either. A thorough check will review their credentials, past accusations of negligence, and more. You also should likely find out why they left or were fired from past employers (asking the employers directly if possible).

Just remember that not all information is reliable. Spurned employers can lie, as can crafty potential hires. All the same, the more information you collect from reasonably verified sources, the better.

The algorithm we use at Hermathema Labs can help you thoroughly and reliably vet potential and current hires. By rapidly examining their online habits, it can fairly accurately predict if they can be trusted with the position in question. Technology like ours has the potential to far more thoroughly investigate someone than is likely possible for you to do alone.

Tip 3: Train Your Employees

According to one report, about 70 percent of companies worry about their employees unintentionally causing a data breach of some kind. The unfortunate reality is many people otherwise qualified for their jobs often aren't tech-savvy enough to fully grasp network security.

In fact, some of the most effective strategies hackers exploit this. By simply calling a company and pretending to be important, many hackers are able to get critical access information and security details from unexpecting employees. 

This is why you must train them to see the signs of attack. Employees must learn to never give out information to callers and visitors they do not recognize. Instead, they should contact appropriate security personnel who will be able to verify the stranger as legitimate or not.

If your company is smaller, you may not have a dedicated security team. In this case, just firmly establish who has the authority to give out sensitive information. These individuals should then be well-versed in who they can and cannot give this information out to.

Tip 4: Regularly Back Up Data

If an attacker has control over your data, often one of two things will occur:

  • They will destroy or maliciously modify it
  • They will hijack control of it and try to ransom it back to you

Backing up data greatly reduces an attacker's leverage over your company, even if they succeed in their attack. So long as you have a copy of your data securely elsewhere, about the worst they can do is leak your data to the public. Data leaks can certainly do damage, but they're usually far better than total data loss.

This tip also helps you against accidental attackers, like an employee accidentally deleting some important files. If a critical file is deleted, you can pull it from your backups.

This is also why backing up files often is important. If you back up monthly, you can still lose a month of work. If you back up weekly, then you only can lose a week.

Guard Against Insider Attacks

Insider threat prevention is often an aspect of security companies only care about when it is too late. Guarding against insider attacks now could literally save your company tens of thousands (or even millions) of dollars. 

Your company is most vulnerable from the inside. An insider attack on a small company could easily destroy it through lost data and the potential legal fees a leak can accrue. 

If you want help protecting against high-risk individuals that may be a danger to your company, contact us.

Our employees' work with the Department of Defense has primed Hermathena Labs to be an incredible line of defense against black hats and all other manner of insider threats.

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