Insider Threats: Identifying and Mitigating Risks from Within

Srinivas Rao
| 10/1/2023

While most organizations invest significant resources into protecting against external cyber threats, an often-underestimated risk exists much closer to home: insider threats. These threats, originating from employees, contractors, or even business partners, can lead to severe financial and reputational damage. 

Insider threats can be unintentional or intentional. Unintentional threats could be due to ignorance, negligence or accidental - like misplacing or losing a storage device containing sensitive information or ignoring messages to install software updates and security patches. Intentional threats are actions taken to harm the organization on a personal grievance or for personal benefit. Actions could include leaking sensitive information, harassing associates, sabotaging equipment, or stealing proprietary data.

Ransomware in 2023

Best Practices for Mitigating Insider Threats

The unpredictability of human behaviour may seem insurmountable but don't despair. Implementing strategic and proactive measures can minimize these internal risks. This section details the most effective practices, providing an invaluable resource for your organization's safety.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
One of the foremost methods to deter insider threats is by implementing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC). This system restricts the data and applications available to employees based on their specific organizational roles. By implementing granular permissions, you ensure that only the necessary individuals can access sensitive information, reducing the opportunity for internal mishaps or malevolent actions.
Regular Reviews and Audits
Many organizations need to pay more attention to the power of regular data and security audits. Though they can be labour-intensive, these audits allow you to scrutinize data access logs and detect aberrant patterns that may indicate an insider threat. It's like a routine medical check-up but for your organization's security health.

Identifying Potential Risks

Recognizing an insider threat before it becomes a crisis is half the battle. This section dives deep into what signs to look for and the techniques to employ for early detection.
Behavioural Red Flags
Noticeable shifts in an employee's behaviour could be a red flag. For example, a usually enthusiastic and engaged employee turning indifferent or withdrawn might indicate potential risks. Similarly, someone with a nine-to-five routine who suddenly starts working late could be up to something problematic.
Unusual Data Transfers

Regularly monitor for unscheduled or large data transfers within your internal network. These actions could be the footprints leading you to the perpetrator. For example, if an HR executive downloads extensive financial reports, that would be an odd and potentially dangerous occurrence warranting immediate investigation.

Technical Solutions 

It's vital to employ technology as your ally in this fight. Here are some cutting-edge solutions to help your organization.
User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)
Investing in UEBA can provide unparalleled advantages. This system employs machine learning algorithms to analyze behaviour patterns and flag deviations. For instance, if an employee who typically accesses data only during working hours suddenly logs in at midnight, UEBA would trigger an alert.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software
Deploying DLP software serves as a robust mechanism to prevent data exfiltration. This software can automatically halt any unauthorized attempts to transfer sensitive data from your organization's secure network, effectively acting as a security net for inadvertent or deliberate data leaks.

Legal and Compliance Strategies

This section examines the legal instruments and compliance measures that can provide additional protection against insider threats.

Regular Compliance Training
Compliance training isn't just a box to check during employee onboarding; it's an ongoing requirement. Regularly updated compliance training educates employees on the evolving laws and regulations, ensuring that ignorance doesn't become a gateway to legal liabilities.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
NDAs are more than just a formality. They offer a potential legal recourse if an insider leaks sensitive information. They should be tailored to address the unique risks associated with your specific industry and organization.

Monitoring the Remote Workforce

The surge in remote work arrangements due to global circumstances has exacerbated the insider threat issue. This section explores the unique challenges posed by remote work and how to navigate them.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Implementing MFA for remote access provides an additional hurdle for potential insiders. This approach requires two or more verification methods—something the user knows (password), something the user has (security token), or something the user is (biometric verification).
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
A VPN isn't merely a tool for bypassing geo-restrictions; it's crucial to safeguarding data. When employees access company resources via a VPN, the encrypted connection substantially reduces the likelihood of a data breach.
These are the baseline considerations to help protect your organization from insider threats. If you want to develop a cyber security strategy that protects your business against cyberattacks and data breaches, contact our experts in Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, or the Yukon.

This article has been published for general information. You should always contact your trusted advisor for specific guidance pertaining to your individual needs. This publication is not a substitute for obtaining personalized advice.

 Crowe MacKay’s Technology Consultants have decades of experience advising clients on how to protect and enhance their business through the implementation of new technology-centred strategies. We work with you to ensure your digital transformation not only meets your business’ needs but exceeds your expectations.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive insight from our advisors that will help you make smart decisions that provide lasting value.

Srinivas has more than 23 years of technology industry and consulting experience, working with senior management teams in developing operations and systems strategies; transforming core business operations and integrating technology solutions. His work has spanned industries such as real estate, power and utility, telecommunications, healthcare, manufacturing, banking and the public sector.
Srinivas Rao Technology Advisor
Srinivas Rao
Director, Technology Consulting

Require Assistance?

Connect with a trusted Crowe MacKay advisor to discuss your specific situation by calling us toll-free at 1 (844) 522 7693, emailing [email protected], or by completing the form.
* Required

Shield your business against cyberattacks and data breaches

Contact Crowe MacKay's trusted Technology Consultants to protect your business against cyberattacks and data breaches.