6 Cybersecurity Tricks to Protect Against Insider Threats

By | October 4, 2021

An insider threat is a cybersecurity danger that originates from within an organization. One may associate insider cyberattacks with disgruntled employees. But that’s not true. Other factors also contribute to security breaches. These include negligence, lack of knowledge, or weak security measures. These are, in fact, the most common cause of internal data leaks and breaches. Most of these incidents are accidental. An employee may see a file that looks important, and open it. Then, it turns out to be a phishing attempt, and leeches company data. These instances occur quite often, and companies need to protect themselves against them.

In today’s age, one can’t afford to take cybersecurity lightly. Whether you run a cable company offering deals like Spectrum offers or an online garment store, you should know about the most effective cybersecurity strategies. These strategies will help protect you from data leaks and other cybersecurity issues. Some threats may even halt your operations for days at the end. No company can afford this sort of hit to their revenue or reputation, so you should do your best to prevent this situation. Here are some of the basic but often overlooked ways to guard against insider threats. 

1. Educate Your Staff

One-third of all insider attacks are due to a lack of awareness. This means that an insider allows or enables an attack without being aware of it. They may have plugged in an infected pen drive. It’s also possible they downloaded a suspicious file or opened a phishing email. Hence, you should educate your staff about the best cybersecurity practices. Trained staff would be capable of handling emergencies. If they know how to tackle cybersecurity crises, they’ll be able to handle them much more efficiently, with minimal damage.

You should give security training to your staff quarterly, or at least yearly. It should cover important topics such as social engineering, phishing, and data destruction. Remember, a well-trained staff is your first line of defense, so invest in them. When you carry out these training sessions regularly, you should also test your employees for knowledge retention. Every once in a while, send out short quizzes to assess whether they know how to protect their systems. In addition, some companies reinforce this knowledge by setting this advice as lock screens on company systems. This is a great way to remind employees about these pointers and refresh their minds.

2. Monitor User Behavior & Manage Accounts

Monitoring user behavior enables you to predict or identity abnormal actions and patterns. You could also reduce the risk of insider threats by managing employee accounts. In case you’re suspicious about someone, you can restrict their access to important data. This would secure your information and protect you from a possible malicious attack. 

There are numerous tools out there that can help you monitor accounts and know about user behavior. Many of them are equipped with artificial intelligence, and are able to point out a typical behavior themselves. You should utilize these tools as much as possible. They will also give you a data overview of user behavior and employee accounts, so you can get a clear picture instantly.

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3. Geo-fencing & Time-fencing

Organizations can use geo-fencing and time-fencing to limit data access opportunities. Geo-fencing restricts users from using certain devices or networks beyond specific physical boundaries. If a device enters or leaves a geographical area, you’ll receive a notification. Take the example of a laptop containing critical patient files. If someone leaves the hospital premises with it, you can identify it, lock the device, and wipe the data. It is a good way to keep data access limited to a specific region. 

Time-fencing works similarly. It prevents users from accessing or using certain software/sites during specific hours. You could use it to prevent your employees from using Facebook during office hours. You can also use it to limit the access of critical files to office hours only. These tools can make your supervision rather easy as well as efficient. You can also use this time-fencing for confidential projects. Only allow certain accounts specific windows of time to work on these projects. This will minimize the risk of internal leaks and will help ensure you can supervise these projects as much as possible.

4. Purge Dormant & Orphan Accounts

You need to keep a constant check on inactive and useless accounts. They can serve as open entries for hackers and thieves to do their dirty work. How many accounts in your directory are idle? How many users still have permissions that they inherited from a colleague? Do users still have the credentials for a project that no longer exists? Can they access important data through an old log account? All these are pertinent user access hygiene issues that need to be addressed on a routine basis. 

So, if you see any of these issues, you need to address them immediately. Otherwise, they could leave a window wide open for malicious parties to exploit. Keep clear records of directory accounts and make sure you know the status of each one.

5. Strong Authentication

If an insider threat manages to get valid credentials, it makes their job rather easy. Let’s say you work in Charter customer service, and someone gets to know the password of your account. They can manipulate the data any way they like. It doesn’t matter whether they got the password from your desktop, a third-party site, or a phishing attack. This means that user IDs and passwords are not enough to secure your account/data. You also need to tool-factor authentication as well. With MFA, even if a hacker/attacker has valid credentials, they would be unable to use it to their advantage. 

Set strong password requirements. All company passwords should have a healthy mixture of alphabets, numbers, and special characters for the best results. In addition, these passwords should be longer than eight characters. Set your systems up in such a way that your employees have to change their passwords regularly to access their systems.

6. Back Up Your Data

You should always have physical data back-ups in case of any emergencies. If there is a cybersecurity breach, and hackers manage to enter your systems, you may want to erase sensitive information immediately. However, you may still need this information, so you can’t simply wipe it. It is better to regularly back up company data to physical hard drives, and store them in a safe and secure place. Only authorized and limited people should have access to these hard drives.

If a hacker erases your data or you opt to wipe it yourself, you can easily recover it in this way. This helps you protect sensitive information, without risking its loss.

In conclusion, there are a number of ways in which you can protect against insider threats. These threats may not be malicious, and may merely be accidental. But you still have to take all possible steps against them.

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