How businesses can improve insider threat prevention

The cybersecurity risk landscape expands as more businesses adopt digital technologies. Tech offers myriad benefits, but it’s critical for companies to continuously improve their various security measures for the best protection possible.

Many things protect businesses from threats outside of their organization, but untrustworthy employees also pose dangers. Here’s why prevention is critical and how companies can improve their insider threat prevention.

An Overview of Insider Threats in 2022
There’s no denying that insider threats are dangerous and costly for modern businesses. Proofpoint Inc., a leading company in cybersecurity and compliance, released its 2022 Cost of Insider Threats report that details these dangers.

The report sought to identify the costs and trends associated with insider threats in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. It surveyed over 1,000 IT and IT security professionals throughout Africa, the Middle East, North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

According to the report, insider threat incidents increased by 44% in the past two years and costs per incident rose to $15.38 million, up more than one-third. Additionally, the report found that it took between 77 to 85 days for organizations to contain an insider threat incident.

The business landscape has significantly shifted with the growing remote work trend due to the pandemic. A recent study revealed that 43% of employees made critical mistakes that led to cybersecurity issues for themselves or the organizations they worked for. All businesses need to consider the risks of insider threats, especially companies with remote-friendly or remote-first work environments.

Why Insider Threat Prevention Is Critical
An insider threat is any former employee, current worker, contractor, business associate or individual who can access sensitive data and IT systems. These threats can harm an organization, sometimes irreparably.

When it comes to an insider threat, it’s common to think of a disgruntled employee stealing data or trade secrets. They may feel betrayed by the organization or negatively affected somehow and wants to get revenge by committing a malicious act.

Companies fail to consider employees who pose a threat due to a lack of knowledge or negligence, which can be just as damaging and costly. Large breaches due to insider threats are often unintentional, making prevention all the more vital.

While IT teams can implement various cybersecurity measures to create an airtight defense system, it would be a major challenge to eliminate all potential risks. Companies and their leaders need to recognize the critical nature of insider threats and address their business and security needs to strike a fair balance between the two.

Tips and Techniques for Insider Threat Prevention
Tackling cybersecurity can be challenging for a company. In addition to preventing external threats, organizations must prepare for insider attacks, making cybersecurity more complex. Here’s how companies can improve their existing threat prevention methods.

  • Monitor User Behavior and Implement Access Control
    Businesses can leverage many types of software and other technologies to monitor employee behavior. Doing so on a company network allows an IT department to identify abnormal patterns that could lead to an insider attack. Access control ensures employees can only get to critical data on an as-needed basis. It’s a key component of securing information and preventing insider threats. Access control methods can secure assets, but also trace actions and determine the root cause of a breach.
  • Develop Thorough Onboarding and Offboarding Processes
    Companies must educate new employees about how technologies should be used during the onboarding process. Some workers may only access certain software or data based on their roles. Additionally, IT departments must disable employee accounts during the offboarding process so they cannot access company information. It’s also wise to remove prior workers from the authorized user list. In 2020, it was reported that an ex-Cisco employee broke into Cisco’s cloud network and deployed a code that deleted Webex, the company’s widely used video conferencing platform. As a result, Cisco spent $1.4 in employee hours to fix the network issues and over $1 million to affected customers. This example highlights the importance of denying former employees access to any company property, whether it’s a device, cloud network or set of login credentials.
  • Enforce Security Policies
    Companies should create a written document that contains technical and user behavioral guidelines employees can follow to bolster cybersecurity and reduce insider threats. This may be an acceptable use, access control, business continuity or remote access policy. The Cyber Management Alliance outlines the best practices companies should follow to develop a good cybersecurity plan and why it’s so important in today’s business environment.
  • Adopt the Best Cybersecurity Practices
    Adopting commonly used and emerging cybersecurity practices can help lower an organization’s chances of experiencing an insider threat incident. IT teams can implement endpoint security, which focuses on employee device usage. Typically, these solutions include insider threat prevention methods that can protect an organization. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also has plenty of helpful resources on its website to learn more about the best cybersecurity practices.Increasingly, however, typical cybersecurity practices are no longer enough to prevent bad actors from gaining access. Common methods such as changing passwords, monitoring for vulnerabilities, and limiting user access, though important, can only do so much. Companies are now turning to innovative new ways to ensure cybersecurity, including using machine learning to identify and prevent previously unknown threats. As machine learning models get more advanced, they’ll be able to catch signs of threats that may have been unrecognizable to humans.
  • Provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training
    Organizations can implement various cybersecurity protections, but they’re only useful if employees understand them and why they’re important. Common security solutions may not predict human error, leading to unintentional insider threats. The old saying goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” which holds true in a cybersecurity context. In other words, a company’s insider threat prevention is only as strong as its most vulnerable employee. Implementing a thorough, comprehensive cybersecurity training program enables employees to be better prepared to handle any external attacks and less likely to pose unintentional insider threats.Some employees may not buy into cybersecurity training, so companies might offer incentives or use other strategies to reward them for following best practices.
  • Prioritize Insider Threat Prevention
    Negligent, malicious and compromised users in an organization are a serious, growing risk for organizations across various industries and global economies. Insider threats are more challenging to identify than external ones and can sometimes go undetected. Whether the danger is due to negligence, prompted by malice or executed by a third-party vendor, taking a proactive approach can keep organizations protected.Malicious insiders may understand a company’s basic security measures and find a way to slip through the cracks. Any business can face insider threats. Consider following the prevention tips above to maintain a good cybersecurity posture and reduce the likelihood of experiencing an insider threat incident.