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Detecting Insider Threats: Safeguarding Your Organization from Within

how to detect insider threats

Insider threats, which can harm organizations, come from people inside the organization, such as employees or partners with access to important information. These risks have the potential to cause data breaches, financial loss, and reputational harm, whether they are intentional, unintentional, or the result of external influences. Detecting insider threats early is crucial. Understand how to detect and prevent insider threats to keep your organization safe.

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, data breaches caused by hostile insiders were the most expensive, costing an average of USD 4.90 million, or 9.5% more than the average data breach cost of USD 4.45 million.

Getting To Know Insider Threats

Insider threats come in different forms, such as stealing data, causing accidents, or misusing company resources. The common factor is that the person causing the threat has authorized access to the organization’s systems and information.
Some common types of insider threats include:

  • Malicious Insiders: These are employees or partners who deliberately utilize their access to steal data, disrupt operations, or hurt the firm.
  • Negligent Insiders: These employees accidentally expose the organization to risk due to carelessness, like falling for scams or sharing sensitive information.
  • Disgruntled Insiders: These employees are unhappy with their jobs or the organization and try to get back at them by leaking information or sabotaging systems.
  • Third-Party Insiders: These are vendors or partners who have access to the organization’s systems and data and may utilize it for their gain.

Understanding these insider threats is the first step in devising a strategy to detect and mitigate them.

How to spot signs of an insider threat?

Insider threats can be tough to spot because they come from people with the right access. This makes it difficult to tell if someone is doing something they shouldn’t. The key is to catch any strange activity early to stop a security problem.

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Employees who are unhappy or acting negatively
  • Strange activity or behavior with accounts or users
  • Sudden increases in network activity for no reason
  • Surprisingly huge data downloads.
  • Attempting to access files or systems that should not be accessible
  • Sending suspicious emails or messages outside the company
  • Accessing files or systems when they shouldn’t be
  • Using devices to connect remotely that aren’t approved

How to detect insider threats?

Detecting insider threats involves using a variety of methods, including technology and rules, and making sure employees are aware. Here are some key ways to do this:

  • Using User Behavior Analytics (UBA): UBA watches how users normally behave on the company’s systems. If someone starts acting strangely, like accessing data at odd times, UBA can spot this and alert the company.
  • Privileged Access Management (PAM): PAM aids in maintaining control over and monitoring accounts with special access, which are frequently the target of insider attacks. It ensures these accounts are used properly and can alert you if something seems off.
  • Regular Access Reviews: Companies should regularly check who has access to what data. Sometimes, people have access they no longer need or shouldn’t have. Regular checks can catch these issues.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools: Monitors how data moves within and outside the company. They can detect and prevent attempts to steal sensitive data.
  • Building a Security-Aware Culture: Companies should educate employees about insider threats and encourage them to report anything suspicious. Regular training can help employees understand how to keep data safe and what to look out for.

By using these strategies, companies can better protect themselves against insider threats and respond quickly if they occur.

Additional Insider Threat Detection Techniques

Aside from the main strategies mentioned above, there are specific methods and tools organizations can use to detect insider threats:

  • Behavioral Analytics: This means looking at how users normally behave to see if anything unusual is happening. For example, notice if someone logs in at strange times or accesses a lot of data suddenly.
  • Sentiment Analysis: This helps detect if employees are unhappy or upset, which could make them more likely to cause harm. By looking at their emails, chats, or social media posts, organizations can see if there are signs of discontent.
  • Insider Threat Modeling: This involves creating profiles of potential threats, including why they might do something bad, what they can do, and what they can access. This helps organizations know what to look for.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Auditing: This means keeping an eye on what users are doing all the time. This includes watching how data moves around, checking if anyone is doing something suspicious, and regularly reviewing who has access to what.

By using these insider threat detection techniques, organizations can stay alert to insider threats and take action before they cause harm.

How to respond to insider threats?

Even with good ways to spot and prevent insider threats, organizations need to know how to respond if one happens. Having a clear plan for what to do is essential. This plan should specify the measures to be taken, who will do what, and how to communicate about the problem. Important parts of a response plan for insider threats include:

  • Containing the Incident: Quickly figure out how big the problem is and stop it from worsening.
  • Investigating the Incident: Look into what caused the problem, who did it, and how much damage was done. Use tools to gather and analyze evidence.
  • Fixing and Recovering: Take steps to lessen the impact of the incident, get things back to normal, and prevent similar incidents in the future.
  • Communication and Reporting: Ensure everyone who needs to know about the incident, such as management, legal teams, and regulators, is informed. Keep them updated on what’s being done.
  • Learning and Improving: Study the incident and how it was handled to find ways to improve next time. Based on what was learned, update security rules and procedures.

Having a well-prepared plan means organizations can deal with insider threats effectively and get back to normal operations quickly.

How do you prevent insider threats?

Insider threat prevention involves a combination of strategies to reduce the likelihood of such incidents. Here are some key measures some companies can take to reduce insider threats:

  • Strict Access Control: Limit employees’ access to only the information and systems required for their jobs. Implementing the concept of least privilege ensures that employees have only the information they need to fulfill their duties.
  • Regular Monitoring and Auditing: Continuously monitor and audit user activities, particularly for privileged users. Look for strange behavior or access patterns that could suggest an insider threat.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Employees should be educated on the dangers of insider threats and on how to identify and report suspicious behavior. Promote a culture of security awareness throughout the organization.
  • Implement Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solutions: Use DLP systems to monitor and control the flow of sensitive data within your firm. This can help to reduce data breaches caused by insider threats.
  • Establish Clear Security Policies: Create and implement explicit security policies that specify authorized use of company resources, data handling procedures, and penalties for violating security standards.
  • Regular Security Assessments: Perform frequent security assessments to detect and address possible vulnerabilities in your organization’s systems and processes.
  • Employee Background Checks: Conduct thorough background checks on employees before hiring them, especially for positions that require access to sensitive information.
  • Implement Insider Threat Detection Tools: Use specialized tools and technologies, such as user behavior analytics (UBA) and anomaly detection systems, to detect insider threats.

Implementing these procedures can dramatically lower the risk of insider threats while protecting sensitive information from illegal access or exploitation.

Protect Your Company From Insider Threats

Detecting and dealing with insider threats is an ongoing challenge for organizations. They must do this to keep their important data safe and their business running smoothly. Organizations may limit the risk of insider threats and secure their valuable assets by employing various approaches, including technology and procedures, and ensuring that staff understand what to look for.

The key to spotting insider threats is to watch closely, always look for ways to improve, and create a culture where everyone takes security seriously. By staying on top of things and being ready for new threats, organizations can build a stronger and safer future.


  • Hailey Wilkinson

    Hailey is an accomplished writer with eight years of experience in top tech magazines, specializing in all things smart and innovative. As a tech aficionado, she is always up to date with the latest gadgets and appliances. When she's not immersed in the digital world, you can find her collecting sneakers or venturing into the great outdoors. Hailey is a versatile individual with a passion for technology, fashion, and the beauty of nature.