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Insider Threats: What They Are and How to Stay Aware

Insider threats in Cyber Security can be tricky, as most defenses against breaches and hacks are designed to protect against external attacks rather than threats originating inside the organization itself. The latest data breach at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a good example of how even an organization as large and sophisticated as the US government can be unaware of threats coming from within. An insider threat is someone in an organization who has access to sensitive information that is used to harm the organization. This harm can be done intentionally or unintentionally, but both scenarios can be equally devastating.

How can your organization spot potential cyber threats from within before they cause damage? Awareness is key. Below are strategies that an organization can use to stay vigilant and protect itself against insider threats.

Perform enterprise-wide risk assessments

To identify potential insider threats, an organization should conduct a risk assessment. This is a process where the organization surveys employees and creates an inventory of their current position and job function. A risk assessment should be conducted for every employee and include factors such as whether or not they have been involved in any suspicious activity, what access they have to sensitive information if they have been given any special privileges, etc.

Develop policies

It is important to develop policies that outline how information is shared within the organization to prevent insider threats from occurring. The policies should outline how employee data is handled and how third parties can access it. For example, do employees need permission to share information on social media? Are there restrictions on accessing certain types of information? The policy can also outline what will happen if an employee tries to share sensitive information with individuals who are not authorized to view it.

Document and consistently enforce policies and controls

To identify potential threats against an organization, it is important to document and enforce policies and controls. An employee who shares information with a third party without authorization will be identified as an insider threat. This is especially true if a third party accesses sensitive information without the proper authorization.

Create internal accountability measures

One of the best ways of preventing insider threats is by creating internal accountability measures. An employee who tries to share sensitive information will know that they will be held accountable for their actions. The measure can be anything from losing their job or getting fired, but this should always be made clear in writing and signed off on in a meeting that all employees are aware of. This way, employees know that they can’t share information without being caught and punished.

Establish physical security in the work environment

It is important to ensure that sensitive information is stored in a secure location to protect company information. This means that it has to be protected from unauthorized individuals who may try to access the information. For example, if an employee tries to share sensitive information that they shouldn’t have access to, they will be identified as an insider threat and threatened with their job.

Key Takeaway

Insider threats are a major problem for organizations. They can be caused by disgruntled employees, rogue government officials, or cybercriminals. Organizations are now taking steps to prevent these threats by establishing policies and monitoring the actions of their employees. Following these five tips will make it easier to identify potential insider threats in your organization and prevent them from accessing sensitive information.

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