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Internal Security Breaches: How to Spot Them and Stop Them

Internal Security Breaches

No security breach can hit on a deeper level than an internal security breach. Imagine working excitedly and painstakingly on your business, assembling a team that shares a common goal, and building a network cyber protection system just to watch it take a substantial hit from the inside. No one could blame you – sometimes we get so hung up on stories of outside threats, that we forget to focus on potential risks lurking in-house.

How do these security breaches happen? Because of oversight, forgetfulness, lack of experience, jealousy, hurt? The answers can be few and many. But below we’ll cover the most often seen internal security breaches, so you can prepare for a risk that hopefully never comes knocking on the door of your business.

Types of Insider Threats

The phrase “insider threats” is pretty explanatory as it is. But there may be some factors that you fail to consider as possible insider threats. To raise awareness of insider security breaches, we’ll list the often found culprits of such risks:

  • Vindictive Employees: There are those workers who knowingly steal, leak, or damage internal information or IT systems for their gain, corporate espionage, vindictiveness, or sabotage. These people are often swayed by malice from individuals outside the organization or by emotions like rage or greed.
  • Negligent Employees: Careless staff members may unintentionally compromise business information or networks. These individuals are unaware their actions put the company at risk of a data breach or cybersecurity attack. Negligent employees may produce internal security breaches just because they inadvertently put sensitive information in the wrong hands.
  • Unsuspecting Employees: The seeming source of the inside attack could be a worker whose computer has been compromised or whose login credentials have been stolen. Cyberattacks are used by criminals to steal employee credentials, which they then use to commit crimes under the employee’s name. 

As you can see, we chose to classify the inside threats through the lens of the people who are part of the in-house structure or ones that closely partner with the business in question. Now, whether the threat comes from a file, an app, or other data – we’ll leave a brief classification for you below:

  • Unauthorized removal, copying, transferring, or other data exfiltration methods
  • Unauthorized uses of business assets
  • Data alteration, like unauthorized data changes
  • sensitive assets deletion or destruction
  • downloading data from questionable sources
  • leveraging illegal software that might have malware or other harmful code
  • installing malicious software on purpose

All in all, you and your staff must be educated on just how easy it is to open the door to internal security breaches. It’s even more important that you know how to spot this deliberate or unintentional behavior.

Internal Security Breaches data

Insider Threat Indicators and Impact

Now we’ll briefly list the most obvious indicators of a security breach that stems from the inside:

  • Downloading or accessing an increasing amount of data
  • Accessing sensitive data not relevant to the employee in question
  • Accessing data not usual to the employee’s unique behavioral profile
  • Repeated requests for access to data not significant to the employee’s role
  • Using unauthorized storage devices (USB drives, etc.)
  • A rise in phishing attacks

We’ll take a moment now to look at what kind of impact these attacks have on organizations.

  • Loss of revenue
  • Loss of competitive edge
  • Loss of customer trust
  • Increased legal trouble
  • Complete financial fallout

Usually, when a cyber-criminal has compromised an account, they can use that data to compromise a staff member, thus making an outside attack an insider attack.

Securing Yourself from Insider Threats

One glaring statistic from Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report is that 82% of the recorded breaches involved a human element. Maybe you will be somewhat comforted by the fact that your staff members are 2.5 times more likely to make a mistake than to intentionally abuse their access. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you need to know how to keep sensitive company data safe.

Besides identifying the pattern of suspicious activity as advised above, here are some other steps you can take to secure your business from internal security breaches:

  • Prevent Incidents – Lower risk through blocking, monitoring (both staff access and user behavior), and real-time user notifications.
  • Secure User Privacy – To acknowledge employee and contractor privacy and comply with regulations, and anonymize user data.
  • Fulfill Compliance – Quickly and efficiently meet important compliance requirements relating to hacker attacks.
  • Integrate Tools – For better understanding, combine insider threat management and detection with SIEMs and other security tools (File Access Management, Behavioral Analytics, Email security for outbound mail, securing your staff from sending data to the wrong recipient, etc.).

These are, of course, just the basics of protection. To create and implement a full-blown cyber security strategy, the help from an external Managed Service IT Provider could be of immense assistance.

Final Word

Implementing staff monitoring, auditing system logs, maintaining open lines of communication with important stakeholders, separating duties, and training your staff to avoid common mistakes that jeopardize their credentials are all ways to protect your company. And to make it simpler for you and your team to identify and stop insider attacks, you can benefit from investing in both new and existing technologies, as well as proven experts with a good IT security track record.

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