October 24

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How to Leverage Online Behavior for Insider Threat Detection

By Hector Velez


We all want to trust our employees. Establishing trust is, in many cases, critical to our success. Whether we are government contractors or working a cash register, the threat level is different but exists for both positions. 

How can we effectively grow a business while mitigating insider threats? We believe in the old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Meaning, if we can identify risky patterns in online behavior, we can get the jump on insider threats before they become problematic.

If you are also ready to strike this balance, read on, and we’ll tell you what you need to know to protect yourself and your business.

Creating a Company Culture of Safe Online Behavior

The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report analyzed over three thousand security breaches across various industries. It found that of those breaches, 30% were caused internally. 

The larger your company, or the more sensitive your work’s nature, the greater the risk for insider threats. Whether this is due to negligence and sloppy online behavior or malice, the results are the same

By creating a culture where employees understand what online behavior is and how their behavior impacts the company, you can start identifying where and with whom problems may lie.

What Is Online Behavior?

The internet has changed the world and the workplace with lightning speed. Some people just don’t understand safety and security while online.

Online behavior is reflective of this understanding, or lack thereof. In short, online behavior is the functional and interpersonal behaviors of people while online. How your employees are in person may serve as an indicator of their propensities online.

If they are sloppy, rude, or unkempt in real life, it’s likely that’s how they navigate the web—which is problematic.  

Online Behavior: The Best Practices 

Did you know that 62% of insider-related incidents are due to negligence? Taking the time to train your employees in the best practices for security can go a long way in protecting critical systems and data. 

Phishing attempts are getting more refined, and many people aren’t able to identify them. By training your staff and running occasional internal phishing tests, you can easily identify weak links.

You can bolster these training efforts by making sure your HR and IT teams communicate. Open dialogue across the departments can help keep everyone on the same page and your proprietary information safe. 

Further, you can create a threat-hunting team. This is a dedicated group of vetted, trusted employees who can dedicate work hours to developing training, working with weak links, and proactively looking for leaks.

Tell-Tale Signs

If your employee is just negligent, that is easy to spot, and training or coaching may be of some help. If the person has been compromised or is malicious, some tell-tale signs help with insider threat detection:

  1. They have adopted interests outside the scope of their position
  2. They are working strange hours without authorization
  3. They are logging in at unusual times and/or from unusual places
  4. There are signs of drug, alcohol, or gambling problems
  5. They are accessing systems or applications they don’t normally
  6. They are copying large swaths of data

These are just a few key indicators that can clue you into a potential insider threat. And one of the biggest things to look for is financial instability. The biggest reason for insiders to turn is financial.

Of course, there are exceptions, like an employee on vacation and working remotely, but an engaged management class can spot the outliers. Being able to quickly identify and eliminate any insider threats is mission-critical. 

Leveraging Online Behavior

The reality is you may not have an unlimited budget to spend on specialized tasks, small group training, and hands-on observation. We get that, and we have a solution.

In these instances, utilizing User and Entity Based Behavior Analytics (UEBA) can save you big bucks. Using machine-based analytics may also be more effective than tapping into your existing workforce.

UEBA leverages the power of machine learning. With speed and efficiency, it tracks, collects, and analyzes user and machine data to find threats. Over time, the AI can identify anomalies from expected behaviors.  

Once these behaviors are identified, they are flagged. Anomalous online behavior can look like credential abuse, unusual access patterns, or large data uploads; all are those tell-tale signs of insider threats.

The UEBA can identify these behaviors, potentially cutting off the insider before it’s too late, and the damage to your business is irreparable. This gives you the upper hand and quite possibly the element of surprise.  

Fighting Insider Threats With Data Science

There are many companies today that have developed AI algorithms to be even more effective in parsing out the normal from the anomalous. You can decide what level of risk is acceptable for certain activities, and the AI does the rest. 

The longer the algorithm is employed, the better it will serve your business. What would have taken a team of data scientists weeks to decipher is done by machine learning in a matter of minutes. 

This efficiency frees up your team to do the important work. And it gives you the data you need to make the best decisions about your workforce. 

Nipping Insider Threats in the Bud

Unfortunately, insider threats are not going away anytime soon. On the flip side, you aren’t helpless against them anymore. Today we have more technology at our fingertips to effectively identify problematic online behavior.

It starts with taking the time to make sure your all-star management team understands the different types of insiders and the behaviors they exhibit while also employing robust AI algorithms to do the heavy lifting. 

By employing a customized combination of training, organizational alignment, and technology, you can ensure that your team is prepared to fight and eliminate these threats.

Our proprietary algorithm is informed by years of experience with high-level security clearances and our work within the DoD. Reach out today to find out what Hermathena Labs can do for you.

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