October 20

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What Are the Different Types of Insider Threats?

By Marina Capuano


A staggering 90 percent of all businesses feel threatened by insider attacks. These fears are legitimate, with a significant number of businesses falling victim to insider threats each year.  

As the name suggests, insider threats originate within the targeted company. These threats usually cause more damage than external attacks from malware or cybercriminals. That’s because different types of insider threats are launched by insiders with privileged access to sensitive personal and business data and applications.

The skyrocketing occurrence of insider attacks should be a major concern for any company. As of 2020, US organizations encounter approximately 2,560 internal security breaches per day. A single successful security breach could have a devastating impact on your business. 

So, what types of insider cyber threats should you be watching out for? How can you identify the warning signs of a potential insider cyber threat? More importantly, how can you prevent insider threat attacks?

These are some of the issues we discuss in this post. Read on to learn more.

Types of Insider Threat Attacks

The best way to defend yourself against insider threats is to be aware of some of the common types and examples of insider threats in cybersecurity. Let’s look at four of them.

1. Pawns 

A pawn is an employee who gets manipulated into doing something that could cause a cybersecurity breach. This manipulation often happens through spear-phishing and social engineering. 

While the pawn's actions are unintentional, the resulting impact is no less devastating. Given how simple and effective this vector of attack is, cybercriminals make use of it frequently to harm targets.

2. Goofs 

The vast majority of insider security incidents are perpetrated by goofs. A goof is an employee whose actions aren’t motivated by malicious intent but are deliberate and potentially harmful. These employees engage in high-risk behavioral patterns out of either ignorance or arrogance.

Goods generally believe that they're expected from the organization's cybersecurity policies. Almost every organization has such employees. These workers are almost always trying to bypass the organization's security controls.

A good example is an employee who stores sensitive information in the cloud without first encrypting it. They do so despite being aware that doing so is against your cybersecurity policy.

3. Collaborators 

A collaborator is a user who co-operates with outsiders, such as your competitors, to harm your business intentionally. In this case, the collaborator uses their privileged access to steal sensitive information such as customer data. By allowing third parties to access this information, collaborators can cause a disruption to your business operations.

4. Lone Wolves

 A lone wolf acts independently. They don’t need external manipulation or influence to act maliciously. 

A lone wolf can be especially dangerous if they have a high level of privileged access. This includes being a system administrator or a database administrator. Their positions call them to leak classified information to third-parties.

How to Spot Different Types of Insider Threats

Many organizations aren’t aware of potential insider cyber threats until it’s too late. Interestingly, it’s quite easy to spot the warning signs of insider threats so you can address them promptly. Let’s look at some of the telltale indicators of potential insider cyber-attacks.

Digital Warning Signs   

Monitoring how your employees use your IT system can help you spot unusual occurrences on your network. These activities may be evidence of potential insider threats. 

A certain employee has frequently been accessing and downloading unusual amounts of data. Is there a staff member who repeatedly tries to access data that’s outside of their unique job profile. These unusual activities should raise suspicions. 

Have you noticed unauthorized USB drives or other storage devices lying around the office? Does a certain employee engage in network crawling or searches for classified data? These are other signs that you could be the target of an insider cyber attack.

Be wary of instances of data hoarding or the copying of files from folders that contain sensitive data. If any sensitive data is emailed outside the business, investigate. 

Behavioral Indicators 

Take notice of any unusual behavioral changes in your employees. Does a staff member repeatedly attempt to bypass the instituted security controls? Has someone started staying behind in the office after work hours?

You may also notice that a particular employee seems increasingly disgruntled. Some employees even start to violate corporate policies regularly. These behaviors should never be ignored.

How Can You Prevent Insider Threats?

You may not be able to predict when an insider attack will happen. But you can always do something to protect your business against insider cyber threats. Here are a few proven suggestions on how to do it.

Track All Endpoints 

Invest in a managed endpoint detection and response solution to catch any abnormal behavior that occurs on your networks. Such behavior may not always be caught by your antivirus software. 

Conduct Cybersecurity Awareness Training 

Ensure that your employees get the necessary cybersecurity information. Equip them with the skills to detect or avoid potential threats. These are the best ways to remain safe from insider cyber threats. 

Every once in a while, you can conduct regular phishing tests to identify employees in need of extra training.  

Keep Access to Your Network Restricted 

Always make sure that all employees don’t have access to all company data. For instance, sales employees have no business accessing payroll data. Be sure to restrict privileged information to individuals who require it.

Keep Your Employees Happy 

Your employees are your most valuable asset. The most secure and successful organizations treat their employees well and foster a sense of belonging in their team.

Satisfied employees are motivated to stay loyal to the company, drastically minimizing any tendency to commit malicious insider cyberattacks.

Guard Your Company Against Insider Threats

No company is immune to insider cyber threats. However, each organization has a responsibility to take action against these threats and keep their data safe. Knowing what types of insider threats your company is vulnerable to makes it easier to establish a foolproof defense against them.

Are you concerned about insider cyber attack threats in your organization? Please contact us today to learn the security solutions we offer.

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