March 20, 2024
XX Minute Read

Insider Threat Detection: IRM Strategies and Solutions

Insider threats manifest in various forms, including malicious insiders, negligent insiders, and compromised insiders. These individuals, often with legitimate access, can significantly harm an organization by misusing their access to conduct data exfiltration, disrupt operations, or cause data breaches. Understanding these types of insider threats is crucial for effective prevention and detection.

Insider threat prevention and mitigation require the enterprise's sustained and coordinated effort. Depending on the organization, this may require the participation of multiple groups, including the security team, HR team, and various business units. However, while an insider security program does require focus, it does not have to be complicated.‍

Understanding insider threats

Insider threats manifest in various forms, ranging from employees with malicious intent to those whose negligence puts the organization at risk. Former employees, as well as compromised insiders, might pose a malicious insider threat. Malicious insiders may engage in activities for personal or financial gain or to inflict damage due to grievances. Negligent insiders, on the other hand, may inadvertently cause security breaches through careless actions. Recognizing these threats requires a keen understanding of both technological and human factors.

Insider threat indicators

Detecting an insider threat involves vigilance for specific key indicators to understand how they deviate from baseline user activity. These include anomalies in employee behavior, such as accessing files or systems not pertinent to their role or unusual data transfer patterns. Another critical indicator is changes in user privileges without clear justification. Monitoring these indicators necessitates a robust cybersecurity framework. You’ll need processes and tools to monitor privileged access on the organization’s network to identify malicious activity.

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Security measures against insider threats

Robust security policies are essential to protect against insider threats and insider attacks. This requires building effective insider threat policies and deploying solutions like next-generation data detection and response (DDR), which goes beyond data loss prevention to provide data security. DDR leverages data lineage to understand how user behavior and the actions users are taking against data in your environments impact the content you deem sensitive information.

How to Build Your Insider Threat Policies

To protect against insider threats, organizations must first identify sensitive data that needs protection, such as intellectual property, trade secrets, customer data, and regulatory information. Establishing clear policies on how this data is accessed, used, and shared is crucial. These policies should cover data access, user permissions, and define what constitutes normal and suspicious activities. This ensures that deviations from established norms can be quickly identified and addressed.

First, we need to know what we are looking for and establish the rules for handling sensitive data. It is important to remember that our insider threat program should be able to detect and prevent malicious insiders as well as insider threats from end-user accidents or negligence.

When developing policies, organizations should first identify the data that needs to be protected. Any data that would harm an organization if exposed is a potential target of an insider threat. As such, a robust insider threat program should include a wide range of data types and data sources.

Next, policies should define how each data type should be accessed and used. What users or systems should be allowed to access data? How will that access be controlled? When it comes to insider threats, one of the most essential aspects is defining what users can do with data after it is accessed. How will users be able to collaborate on data? What methods can be used to safely share data, and with whom? This can include defining the appropriate applications, users, and teams that need to utilize a particular type of data asset.

How to Find Your Insider Risk

One of the best ways to prevent potential insider threats is to proactively identify and mitigate insider risks. Data and user monitoring tools can be critical in this phase by revealing how insiders use data in real-world workflows. This can also provide insight into the long-term flow and spreading of data. This can reveal important risk factors such as:

  • What users routinely need to work with large amounts of sensitive data?
  • What are the routine business workflows that need to be supported?
  • What users or groups will need to use a particular type of data?
  • What happens to data after it is accessed?
  • What users or applications contain copies of the data?

This level of visibility can reveal areas of unnecessary risk and can help the organization define better rules to prevent the oversharing or misuse of sensitive data.

How to Prevent Insider Threats

Actively preventing insider threats can often be a challenge. Many insider threat tools are deployed out of band, which prevents them from blocking an insider event in real-time. Additionally, a suspicious user action may require further investigation to confirm the threat before an organization is willing to take action.

As such, organizations should seek out insider threat tools that allow for in-line enforcement and maintain a consistent context of what data is sensitive, which data detection and response solutions like Cyberhaven specialize in. DDR technology gives teams comprehensive visibility into endpoint activities, enabling security teams to spot early signs of malicious or unauthorized actions, such as unexpected access to sensitive files or unusual data transfer patterns. By consistently keeping track of sensitive assets, an organization can confidently take enforcement actions whenever information is about to be exfiltrated from the enterprise.

Security awareness training for insider threats

Users naturally play one of the most important roles in preventing insider threats. According to multiple studies, user mistakes and negligence account for between 63% and 78% of all insider threats. As such, all insiders must be trained in how sensitive data is intended to be handled and protected within the organization.

Training and awareness programs play a pivotal role in mitigating insider threats. These programs should educate employees about insider threat incidents, the dangers of phishing attacks and social engineering, and the importance of robust authentication practices. Organizations can significantly reduce the risk of insider threats by instilling a culture of security mindfulness.

Ideally, organizations should complement regular user training with real-time monitoring and enforcement. For example, instead of simply blocking a user from making a mistake, organizations can invest in technologies that alert the user, explain the policy, and redirect the user to a safer alternative. This has the advantage of reinforcing better security habits in the context of a user’s natural workflow while preventing mistakes that a user can make when distracted or in a hurry.

Insider threat detection and management is crucial to an organization's overall cybersecurity strategy. Your detection strategy requires a multifaceted approach, combining advanced technology, comprehensive policies, regular training, and continuous evaluation to effectively protect against insider threats' wide array of risks.

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