In the world of cybersecurity, professionals are always in competition with cybercriminals, attempting to adapt security tactics and technologies as quickly as bad actors are able to produce newer and more sophisticated threats. Many of the measures employed are suited to the purpose of keeping threats out of an organization’s fortified security walls, and while this is an important component of enterprise security, it is not the only one. Threats can also come from within an organization, intentionally or unintentionally. Furthermore, it is wise to consider not only the prevention of security incidents, but also possible contingencies such as cyber insurance for in case an attack does succeed.
An insider threat arises when someone with authorized access to an organization’s resources and data uses that access to harm the organization. Insiders can be employees, partners, contractors, or even maintenance or custodial workers in the building, and threats come in a wide variety of packages, but they can be divided into three main categories. Negligent insiders are those who, through their action or inaction, unintentionally cause harm to the organization from within. Malicious insiders are those who intentionally set out to damage the company in some way. Compromised insiders are actually outsiders who have nefariously obtained authorized credentials and use those credentials to infiltrate the organization and cause harm.
The risks of insider threats are many. An organization can lose significant amounts of vital data that is stolen, destroyed, or sold. Compromised insiders in particular are liable to use the compromised account as patient zero to spread malware through the company’s systems. Dealing with the fallout of an insider threat can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with many companies experiencing multiple insider threat incidents in one year. For these reasons, it is important to stress that prevention is always preferable to remediation.
Difficulties of Preventing Insider Threats
Unfortunately, the very nature of insider threats makes them more difficult and complicated to defend against than regular external attacks. Traditional threat prevention solutions are designed to keep outsiders from getting in, which does little to nothing for threats that originate from within the company (or originate outside but find authorized access to infiltrate the organization). Tools that detect threats based on signatures or other known triggers are not suited for identifying the kind of activity that signals an insider threat incident.
Inside actors have a massive leg up over external cybercriminals, as they have access to more information and more authority, and all without the use of backdoors or exploits. Rather than having to find a way into the organization, an insider bypasses many of the obstacles that an outsider faces. The risky behavior that leads to an insider threat often blends in with regular user activity, and there is no way to fully restrict employee access to essential data and areas of the network without significantly hindering, or even eliminating entirely, their ability to perform their job duties. The crucial thing for preventing insider threats is to implement a “data-aware insider threat detection platform” that can minimize risk and maintain awareness of data loss prevention and company security.
The Role of Cyber Insurance
Cyber insurance is important for any company that handles sensitive data or has networks, devices, apps, or systems that could have adverse effects if compromised. It can cover a wide range of circumstances and help to mitigate the cost of remediation in the event of an attack or another kind of security event. There are different types of cyber insurance for different needs, including first party coverage (which accounts for lost revenue, remediation cost, and risk assessment, among other things), third party or cyber liability coverage (which covers costs a company undertakes when being sued for damages in a cybersecurity incident), and technology errors and omissions (which covers situations where an error in tech causes a cybersecurity incident for a customer’s business).
Cyber insurance can also provide an almost counterintuitive benefit: the security standards to which organizations are held in order to qualify for cyber insurance are often more stringent than the company would otherwise employ. Thus, companies are forced to fortify their cybersecurity strategies to even get insurance in the first place. Cyber insurance cannot replace a solid security posture, but should be used to supplement it as a final measure in case all else fails. While insider threats are generally covered by cyber insurance policies, there are some variables that may affect coverage, such as the precise origin and context of the threat.
Insider threats are a formidable danger that organizations should seriously consider when building their security strategies. Cyber insurance may be helpful in the event of an insider threat incident, but it is not a substitute for preventive measures, robust security policies, and proper cybersecurity training. The only way to effectively protect an organization’s data and other assets against intentional and unintentional insider threats is to employ the right measures and solutions to build up a layered defense. This includes tools specifically designed to detect and prevent insider threats, as traditional solutions are largely ineffective in that area.
PJ Bradley is a writer on a wide variety of topics, passionate about learning and helping people above all else. Holding a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University, PJ enjoys using a lifelong desire to understand how things work to write about subjects that inspire interest. Most of PJ’s free time is spent reading and writing. PJ is also a regular writer at Bora.
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