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Security Best Practices to Protect Against Insider Threats

By September 6, 2023 September 8th, 2023 No Comments

Its not the technology controls alone nor the sophistication of controls that one have implemented can protect an organization entirely from malicious insiders.
It requires a combination of technical, procedural, and cultural measures to effectively defend against malicious insiders. Whether they are of intentional or ignorant type.
An insider or a malicious insider threat can be of many forms – current or former employees, contractors, or business partners who misuse their access and privileges to harm the organization, or a trusted API connection to a third-party which is being exploited under the hood. So lets note what are some effective ways for an organization to protect itself from insider threats: “malicious and ignorant”. Below are the few Security Best Practices to Protect Against Insider Threats:

Employee Screening
Conduct thorough background checks on all employees before hiring, especially for positions with access to sensitive data or systems.

Increase employees cybersecurity awareness, Continuous training.
With negligence as one of the primary causes of insider security incidents, prioritizing employee cybersecurity education becomes imperative. It’s essential to ensure that your employees fully understand your security policies, the importance of adhering to them, and the potential consequences of non-compliance. Equally vital is equipping your employees with fundamental skills to recognize and respond to potential threats. Educate employees about security policies, acceptable use, and the consequences of insider threats. Promote a culture of security and encourage employees to report suspicious activity without fear of reprisal.

User Access Control/ Zero trust approach
Least Privilege Principle: Limit user access to only what is necessary for their roles. Regularly review and update permissions as job roles change.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Implement MFA for critical systems and sensitive data to make it harder for insiders to compromise accounts.

Good password policy
Your organization’s sensitive data and systems are protected from attackers by an effective password policy. Internal company accounts of employees may be compromised, allowing unauthorized access to confidential data. Creating a thorough password policy is crucial to reducing this risk.
Insiders must adhere to specific rules outlined in a password management policy. These instructions can advise using different passwords for every account, coming up with complicated passwords, and changing passwords frequently. Additionally, without disclosing the credentials, you can give employees access to the endpoints of your company by using password management software.

Monitoring privileged users activity
Privileged users within your network present heightened risks compared to regular users due to their elevated access rights. Therefore, it is crucial to give their actions special attention. By closely monitoring privileged users, you significantly increase your ability to detect early indications of privileged account compromise or misuse of privileges.

Continuously Monitor the activity of employees behavior
Consider implementing user activity monitoring tools that enable real-time visibility into user sessions. By accessing and observing user sessions that involve interaction with your sensitive data and systems, you can significantly enhance the security of these valuable assets. Continuous monitoring can help you ensure early detection and timely response to suspicious user behavior. To effectively safeguard your assets, consider monitoring the activities of your employees and vendors within your infrastructure is must.

Ensure data security, Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Protecting your valuable data is of utmost importance when managing insider risks. Encryption is the tried and true security practice that effectively safeguards your data from unauthorized access. Securing your data also involves performing full, differential, and incremental backups. By doing so, you can safeguard your valuable information and minimize the risk of data loss. Ensuring quick restoration of business operations is crucial in the event of physical or digital data damage. Regular backups are the key to achieving this. Deploy DLP solutions to monitor and prevent unauthorized data transfers or access to sensitive information. Encrypt sensitive data at rest and in transit always.

Control access to systems and data
To mitigate insider risks, controlling access to systems and data within your organization is essential. Implementing a zero-trust architecture adds an additional layer of protection. This approach requires approval or user identity verification before granting access to critical assets. The principle of least privilege can also be employed, whereby each user is granted the minimum level of access rights required, with privileges elevated only when necessary. Combine this with conditional access measures like that of enforcing geo fencing, enterprise mobile management with containerized security for organizational data, etc.

Regularly review user access rights
User access reviews involve determining which individuals have access to specific data or systems and assessing whether they need such access for their job roles. Regular user access reviews guarantee that existing access permissions align with the organization’s current business and security requirements.

Perform regular security and IT compliance audits
By conducting regular audits, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your existing security measures and pinpoint any deficiencies in your security policies. Audits provide valuable insights into areas that require improvement, allowing you to mitigate insider risks and ensure compliance with cybersecurity standards, laws, and regulations.

Incident Response Plan
Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that includes procedures for handling insider threats. Test the plan regularly through tabletop exercises and simulations.

Exit Procedures
Implement strict exit procedures to revoke access immediately when an employee leaves the organization. Conduct exit interviews to ensure all assets are returned and access credentials are disabled.

Whistleblower Programs
Establish anonymous reporting channels for employees to report suspicious activity. Ensure that reports are taken seriously and investigated promptly.

Physical Security
Limit physical access to critical infrastructure and sensitive areas. Use security cameras and access control systems to monitor and control physical access.

Vendor and Third-Party Risk Management
Extend security policies to third-party vendors and partners who have access to your systems or data. Verify their security practices and conduct regular audits.

Legal Measures
Develop legal agreements and contracts that explicitly outline the consequences of insider threats and unauthorized data access.

Remember that while technical controls are essential, a strong security culture and continuous employee education are very crucial in mitigating the risks associated with malicious insiders. It’s important to strike a balance between security and trust to maintain a healthy work environment while safeguarding the organization’s assets.

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