3 Critical strategies to mitigate insider threats

October 29th, 2021
3 Critical strategies to mitigate insider threats

While it’s true that thousands of cybercriminals are after your small- or medium-sized business (SMB), not all threats to cybersecurity are external actors. More often than not, it's your own employees who can put your security at risk. According to Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, insider threats account for about 22% of security incidents.

An insider threat is someone who has or had access to information concerning your business premises, data, or network systems, and could be a former or current employee, a third-party contractor, or a business partner. They are threats to security because their access or knowledge of your systems can be used for malicious purposes, whether the user is aware of it or not.

To mitigate insider threats, doing the following is a must:

1. Get to know your people

You wouldn’t simply give a stranger the keys to your house — or to your offices. You can never be too careful in selecting personnel, as you are basically giving them access to your confidential data. When hiring employees, especially for roles that have high access credentials, conduct background checks on them to see if, based on their profile, they'd be the type to harbor motives against your company or if they have a prior record of misconduct.

You also need to gain a better understanding of your current workforce and their cybersecurity habits. Conduct cybersecurity awareness training to correct your staff’s bad habits, such as recycling passwords or connecting to unsecured networks, to minimize human error-based risks. Knowing that your employees are aware of the risks they pose to the company’s defenses and are actively being vigilant to mitigate said risks gives you an assurance that your company is in good hands.

2. Implement safeguards based on assets’ importance and vulnerability to risk

Your business handles different types of data of varying importance. For instance, mission critical data are those that the company cannot run without and thus must be protected at all cost. These should be the first ones to be recovered after a security incident and must therefore never be compromised.

As such, only select, trustworthy users should be able to access mission critical data to prevent leakage or breaches. Implementing the principle of least privilege also ensures that users have access only to data that enables them to do their work, thus preventing hackers from abusing login credentials that they have somehow obtained.

Another guiding principle in mitigating insider threats is prioritizing safeguards according to the vulnerability of an asset. In a hybrid work environment, for example, devices that are taken out of the office are more vulnerable to insider threats than on-premises devices. By knowing the broader classification of each asset’s vulnerability, you can develop better risk-based mitigation strategies.

3. Be adaptive

Insider threats are not static; they are always in flux in nature and in number. For instance, when a company hires seasonal workers to deal with higher volume of orders during the holiday rush, the internal threat landscape changes due to a bigger network of people gaining company access. As such, an organization must always be able to adapt and implement measures that allow management to intervene before someone with privileged access commits a mistake or a harmful act.

In the past year, many businesses have shifted to remote working arrangements. This setup came with a plethora of security challenges for the average user, which, in turn, raised insider threat risks. In situations where employees can easily make mistakes that can jeopardize company security, management must be able to quickly but effectively detect potential insider threats and contain them.

The key to being adaptive is regularly reviewing company security strategies alongside the threat landscape, especially when a business undergoes changes that affect its risk tolerance.

HERO Managed Services can help you take concrete steps in keeping your organization safe from both internal and external threats. Schedule a FREE IT consultation with our HERO experts now.

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