How Internal Threats Compromise Businesses, and How To Prevent Them
In the digital world, threats come from everywhere. Most organizations are prepared to combat hackers and scammers from the outside. However, not everyone knows what to do when the issue comes from an internal location. Internal threats are one of the many security issues that plague organizations today. It’s critical to be proactive and know where they come from and how you can prevent them from interfering with the structure of your business.
We’re here to help you understand what an internal threat is and how you can combat them. Read on to learn more about this growing challenge in the business world today.
What is an Internal Threat?
So, what exactly is an internal threat?
An internal threat is a hazard that comes from the inside. Internal threats are often people who already have insider information about the company, such as former employees or negligent workers. It may happen on purpose with the intent to harm or may occur on accident from someone who doesn’t take the time to keep critical information on lockdown.
Internal threats target computer systems, data, and even security practices. You can be well-equipped for an external threat and find you have nothing prepared for something on the inside. That’s why it’s critical to prepare, even if you feel like it won’t happen to your organization.
The first step to combating an internal threat is knowing where they come from and what one could look like in your organization. This knowledge will give you a foundation to build on. Of course, internal threats can vary depending on the business structure you currently have in place and the type of company you run.
Examples of Internal Threats
So, what are some examples of internal threats? It can be tricky to understand them without scenarios. Let’s talk about a few examples of internal threats you may want to look for in your employee structure. These should give you a better idea of what to look out for if you suspect an internal attack is occurring in your business.
Some examples of internal threats within a company include:
- Ex-employees: A disgruntled ex-employee may feel the need to damage the company from the inside, giving up valuable information or leaving something vulnerable to the outside.
- Employee theft: An employee could steal items like a hard drive with vital data.
- Employee negligence: A negligent employee could click on a dangerous link or accidentally give out vital information about the organization.
- Employee abuse of privilege: An employee could abuse their access and use company information to take advantage of the system.
An internal threat doesn’t have to come from someone working for the business. The person needs to know the specific information that gives them access to certain aspects of the company that could lead to something extreme.
To mitigate internal threats, you must be proactive when dealing with issues from the inside. Acting sooner rather than later can reduce the damage done after an attack. It’s excellent to know what to look for, so you can be on alert rather than taken by surprise.
How to be Proactive in Mitigating Internal Threats
When dealing with internal threats, it’s important to be proactive. Take precautionary measures beforehand to ensure you have an eye on everything while simultaneously being ready to deal with any internal threats that may arise. An intricate, well-run system will accomplish this best.
To be proactive in mitigating internal threats, you can:
- Establish an insider threat program
- Know your people
- Document and enforce policies
- Allow surveillance
- Utilize strict password management
These will keep your insider threat risk down to a minimum and help you better locate the source of the trouble when it arises.
Let’s dive further into these to better understand what needs to be implemented. There are many ways to mitigate and keep internal threats under control, even before they become an issue.
First, we’ll talk about establishing an insider threat program. This technique is not one that many think of, but it can make a difference when dealing with internal threats.
Establish an Insider Threat Program
First, establish an insider threat program that can take action when an internal threat arises. This choice means putting people in place tasked explicitly with handling internal threats that may rise to the surface. They are specialized in their jobs and only need to worry about this one task every day.
To establish an insider threat program, you should:
- Find a senior official to take charge
- Create a working group
- Create governance and a working policy
- Form a training program
- Derive an office for this program
Having a team to deal with internal threats protects your organization and gives you peace of mind as you go throughout your workday. Formal training permits your staff to be aware and ready to prevent mistakes from leading to an internal threat.
An insider threat program will act on instinct when the time calls for them to do so. They can also analyze specific behavior within the company to keep internal threats from arising before it’s too late. Having a team on your side will make life a whole lot easier for your place of work, as they can take on threats while you deal with the day-to-day of the team you work for or with.
Know Your People
Know your people. Know what they do, know who they are, and know what position they have in your company’s security. You should be aware of various people’s access to specific systems and their control when inside — knowing who can go where will make it easier to retrace your steps if something goes wrong.
On top of this, you should also train your employees in internal threat combative techniques. Teaching them anti-phishing strategies will reduce the number of accidental pawns utilized in an internal threat. It’s too easy for employees to become victims in the world, which can lead to the downfall of a business. Ensure your employees aren’t like deer in the headlights.
You can also show your people how to look for risky behavior. If they notice it among their fellow workers, they can report it to stop it before it goes too far. Having watchful eyes among equipped employees will take you far in mitigating internal threats.
Document and Enforce Policies
Quality policies will go a long way in mitigating internal threats within your organization. It’s critical to document them, taking care to write them down and store them for safekeeping. There should be policies about all employee interactions you can think of that could lead to the scenario of an internal threat.
Netwrix.com recommends some of the policies to be about items such as:
- Third-party access policy
- User monitoring policy
- Incident response policy
- Password management policy
- General data protection regulations
Ensure your employees know about these policies and are familiar with how they work. It would be best to be firm on enforcing policies to avoid any loose-handedness that could come with being lax on enforcement. Every policy must be verified by a legal department and then signed by the CEO
You’ll also need to develop penalties if any policy is broken. Strict penalties result in a safer system. Ensure these are just as clear to your employees as the policies are to avoid any confusion.
Next, ensure you allow surveillance to happen on your systems. There’s a way you can keep an eye on potential security threats without damaging the company’s privacy as a whole. Surveillance can take many forms when you’re working to mitigate internal threats while ensuring your company continues to run like a well-oiled machine.
Some examples of surveillance within an organization might include:
- Utilizing employees to monitor, look for, and report suspicious behavior
- Installing video cameras and motion sensors to operate at night
- Implementing screen-capture technology on screens that are considered high-security.
These measures will keep your systems safe from internal threats.
On top of these three measures, you should download various security software to do some of the work for you. The more sources of defense you have, the better equipped you will be to keep out intruders that do not belong in your system.
Utilize Strict Password Management
Finally, take care to utilize strict password management measures with your system. This step is perhaps one of the most critical since passwords safeguard almost everything a business offers. Not only do you need to make strong passwords, but you also need to be careful who has access to what.
Each user in your system should have a way to log in that is personal to them, and only them. If they have clearance to a higher program, they should have another unique password that allows them into that system. Follow the password policies and management you have set to keep everything in place.
One of the biggest causes of internal threats is the verbal transfer of passwords from one person to another. Ensure your employees can keep their information to themselves and be ready to enact repercussions if security measures break. Passwords can be the downfall of security fast.
What is the Most Effective Strategy for Combating Internal Threats?
Out of everything we’ve listed, what’s the most effective strategy for combating internal threats? There is one that stands out above the rest when dealing with issues that may arise.
Having policies in place and trained employees is your best course of action against the dangers of internal threats. If everyone is aware of the potential threats, they are better equipped to prevent them from happening. They can also report anything they see right to you for efficient action.
If everyone is on board, you have less to fear. Together, you can work on making your business environment one that is safe from employee negligence and other careless actions.
Why is it Critical for Companies to Take Action Against Internal Threats?
It can seem unnecessary to take action against internal threats. You may feel as though your system is covered, as though you have no chance of dealing with an internal threat from your organization. This is where the problem lies. Many aren’t aware of the statistics that plague businesses around the world.
According to purplesec.us, 63% of successful data attacks come from sources on the inside. This statistic is shockingly high, and many companies are unaware of it. Much data isn’t reported due to the inside nature of the attack. This choice leaves many organizations in the dark about their actual risks.
Because of the unknowns that come with internal threats, it’s vital to take action against them regardless of how good you feel your security may be on the outside. You never know where an attack can come from, and it’s better to be prepared than not know what’s going on when one happens. Don’t become a statistic with a system ready for an internal threat to conquer.
Internal threats can seem like they’re not a problem until they arise and destroy your system. It’s critical to understand what internal threats are, who they come through, and what you can do to mitigate the issues before they get any bigger. Internal threats are a much larger issue than many realize.
Combating and being proactive against internal threats is part of running an organization. With the increased dangers of social engineering strategies, it’s more critical now than ever to be on top of any threats that may come your way. With extra effort, you can prepare for any internal threats that may come your way.