Your Insider Threat Security Guide: Detection, Best Practices, Solutions


Detecting and proactively preventing external cyberattacks is a priority for security operations (SecOps) teams, but insider attacks are also a risk. In fact, almost 75% of data breaches are caused by insider threats. Whether malicious or negligent, identifying and preventing insider threats is an additional security challenge for organizations. Companies must proactively find ways to manage insider threat detection to really protect themselves.

What is an insider threat?

An insider threat is a malicious or negligent act perpetrated by an employee, contractor, supplier or trusted partner. It’s become a major concern in the cybersecurity world, as more companies struggle to protect themselves against malicious insiders.

The Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security (CISA) definition of insider threat is: “the threat that an insider uses their authorized access, knowingly or unknowingly, to harm the [organization’s] mission, resources, personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks or systems.

Types of Insider Threats

The main types of insider threats include:

  1. Malicious Insiders: People within the company who intentionally use or give their credentials to someone to harm the organization.

  2. Careless Insiders: Employees who neglect to safeguard their login credentials or follow proper security and IT procedures, may also fall for a phishing attack or engage in other negligence, leaving the organization vulnerable. .

  3. Compromised Insiders: Individuals who have – despite their best efforts – been compromised by an outside threat. Credentials are often stolen (or, if phished, given) to malicious cybercriminals outside the organization who then wreak havoc on systems by circumventing automatic perimeter defenses.

How to detect an insider threat

Organizations often struggle to detect these threats because established insider threat detection methods are ineffective and flawed. Researching and validating potential insider threats requires considerable effort. SecOps teams are already too dispersed to manage large amounts of alerts from disparate security tools. While these disparate tools are necessary to verify potential threats, analysts should dive into each tool individually to fully understand the incident.

Additionally, organizations are finding that insider threat detection can be extremely difficult because threat activity frequently mimics normal behavior. Real credentials are used and the normal signs that would indicate an “attack” do not occur, so the systems do not alert SecOps. In addition, attacks are normally spread across multiple systems. These elements make it particularly difficult to detect and understand the scope of an insider attack.

Insider threat indicators

There are two main categories of indicators: behavioral and numerical. Both types of activity can hint at potentially malicious activity that should be investigated. However, without adequate visibility into your tech stack, these behaviors can be difficult to identify.

What scenario could indicate a reportable insider threat? Here are some of the most common examples to look for:

Behavioral indicators

  • Unhappy or dissatisfied employees, contractors or suppliers

  • Work unusual hours for their time zone

  • Repeated attempts to bypass security

  • Resentment or grudges towards co-workers and supervisors

  • Repeated violation of organization policies

  • Verbally discuss the resignation

Digital indicators

  • Online activity at random, unsolicited times

  • Emailing confidential or sensitive information to external accounts

  • Deliberate search for sensitive information

  • Access resources unrelated to their job functions, or that they are not authorized to

  • Downloading large amounts of data, as seen in unusual network traffic spikes

Best Practices: How to Defend Against Insider Threats

  • Protect critical assets: Build a strong defense to make it harder for insider threats to succeed. Identify critical assets such as intellectual property, sensitive customer data, systems, technology and your people. Then make sure your security team understands all aspects of your critical assets and how to protect them.

  • Establish and enforce corporate security policies: Maintain documentation of security policies and procedures and enforce them. Ensure that the entire organization actively follows security protocol and understands how to protect sensitive data. Include insider attacks in your incident response plans – something unique 18% of SANS Institute survey respondents do.

  • Increase security visibility: Use security solutions and tools to track employee activity and telemetry across multiple sources. Take steps to improve communication between siled technologies and ingest data faster. Also, look for a solid case management solution to improve visibility within your security operations team.

  • Host Culture Standards: The saying “prevention is better than cure” is true, especially for cybersecurity. Educate employees with regular safety training. Work with other departments in your organization to improve employee morale and satisfaction.

How can organizations improve insider threat detection?

The frequency and severity of threats continues to increase, with enterprise security teams receiving more than 10,000 alerts per day. Fortunately, there are security tools and solutions available to speed up response times and enable analysts to triage insider threats faster. To improve the incident response process, look for a solution that can help you:

Automate security processes: Look for solutions that allow workflows to trigger automatically, pushing threat incidences throughout the investigation and response process. With security automation solutions, teams are only alerted when human intervention is required. This helps thwart the relentless stream of security alerts that make it difficult for businesses to stay ahead of threats.

Centralize security alerts with Case Management: When a security solution centralizes insider threat alerts and all other types of security alerts, SecOps teams have the information they need to understand security within their organization. This helps them prepare, defend themselves, and better understand potential new threats before they arise.

Improve technology integrations: Integrating your security toolset gives SecOps teams exactly what they need to have a complete understanding of all insider threat alerts. Additionally, automating parts of the threat response process makes the entire security infrastructure more efficient without adding overhead.

Security Automation: Increase Visibility and Actionability

Low-code security automation is one solution that organizations can use to improve insider threat detection. These solutions extend beyond legacy SOAR platforms and allow SecOps teams to integrate multiple tools for rapid detection and response to insider threats. Other benefits for security teams include:

Accelerate Insider Threat Investigations: Automate repetitive manual tasks to free up SOC analysts’ time for more strategic work. Bring humans into the automation loop to accelerate manual intelligence gathering and collaborate on active insider threat cases.

Improve the internal risk posture: Security teams that leverage low-code automation for insider threat use cases gain the scale and efficiency needed to comprehensively reduce insider risk.

Protect future profits: Establish a system or internal risk record to validate that your security controls are effective in protecting valuable and regulated data.

Improve cross-functional collaboration: User-centric dashboards, reporting, and case management help integrate non-security stakeholders, such as legal and human resources, into insider threat response processes.

As the world becomes more connected and more data-driven, insider threat detection has never been more important. Low-code security automation dramatically reduces mean time to resolution (MTTR), which is critical to minimizing damage from insider threats. Ultimately, it helps protect your organization by identifying and blocking insider threats before they cause major damage.

*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of Swimlane (en-US) written by Sydni Williams-Shaw. Read the original post at:

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