How to protect your company from insider threats

As cyberattacks become increasingly prevalent, more and more businesses are investing in firewalls, anti-malware software, and other security solutions to keep threat actors at bay. However, some business owners become so focused on keeping external threats out that they overlook the many insider threats within their company.

What is an insider threat?

An insider threat can be anyone with legitimate access to an organization’s network, such as an employee, a contractor, or a business partner. The Ponemon Institute’s 2022 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report categorizes insider threats into three types:

  1. Negligent insiders – regular users and IT admins who unintentionally put the organization at risk by making mistakes such as failing to update their software, falling for phishing scams, and accidentally sharing sensitive information, among others
  2. Malicious insiders – users and IT admins who purposely perform actions that cause harm to the organization in order to spy on company operations, gain profit, or seek revenge
  3. Credential insiders – cybercriminals who steal login credentials to gain access to company systems

How big of a threat are insiders?

In the abovementioned report, comparing data from 2020 and from 2022, shows that the frequency of insider-led incidents rose by 44%. It also now takes around 85 days to contain an insider threat, compared to 77 days two years ago. This increased duration must be one reason why the average annual cost of mitigating an insider threat has gone up by 34% — from $11.45 million in 2020 to $15.38 million in 2022.

Read also: What is zero trust and why should your business implement it?

How can you guard against insider threats?

To boost your cyber defenses against insider threats, you need to take the following steps:

Provide unique user accounts

Make sure that every individual who has access to your IT system has their own unique user account. This way, you can quickly identify and block users who are conducting suspicious activities.

Restrict user access

Implement role-based access controls wherein users have access only to the company resources they need to do their job. For example, an HR staff should not have access to the R&D department’s research data. And when employees shift to a different role, you must change their network access and rights accordingly. Limiting access based on roles prevents insider threats from roaming your network, which means that the only data they could steal or compromise is that located in the small space they have access to.

You should also restrict access to specific company data, applications, assets, and resources based on each user’s device, network location, and other attributes. For example, you may bar users from connecting to the company network via unregistered devices. If it’s beyond work hours, you may prohibit users from editing company documents and only grant them viewing rights.

Monitor and log user activity

It is important to track the actions of individual users, including each login attempt, file access, and application usage. By monitoring user activities, you can quickly detect unauthorized or anomalous activity, such as a malicious insider trying to gain access to sensitive data.

You should also inspect logs to ensure that users are accessing only the company resources they are permitted to use.

Enable multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA requires users to present two or more pieces of evidence of their identity when logging in to an account. For example, an app may ask a user to provide their password and an answer to a security question.

When you deploy MFA, credential insiders will have a harder time gaining access to the company network. Even if they manage to steal another user’s password, they won’t be able to log in without presenting additional authentication factors they’re not likely to possess.

Disable access

When a staff member leaves the company, your IT team should immediately deactivate that staff’s account access and rights. They must also change any shared passwords that the former staff knows, such as the office Wi-Fi, email accounts, and company social media accounts.

These are just some ways you can protect your company from insider threats. For a more comprehensive cyber defense strategy, turn to SpectrumWise. With our help, you won’t have to worry about both insider and outsider threats. Consult with our IT experts today.


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