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How to Identify the Basic Signs of Insider Threats to your Local Network

Insider threats are cyber security breaches that stem from a trusted employee or vendor allowing an outsider to gain access to the local network. It’s a frustrating and difficult cyber security issue to avoid. You need to give employees plenty of permissions to perform everyday tasks, but you can’t give them open access to areas of the network that they don’t need to be productive.

Signs of Possible Insider Threat Issues

While not every sign is a positive hint that insider threats are happening, network administrators should still protect from possible attacks after witnessing certain activity. Some general activity that could be a sign of possible insider threats include:

  • Working on vacation or during sick leave
  • Working odd hours after the business is closed
  • Enthusiasm for overtime and odd work schedules
  • Unnecessarily copies files that aren’t a part of the job description
  • Acquisition of unexpected wealth and foreign travel

These activities don’t immediately send red flags to coworkers or network administrators, which is why insider threats are so difficult to identify. These threats have a tendency to go completely unnoticed for months and by that time thousands of records can be compromised.

Insider threats aren’t always malicious either. Some insider threats are from basic negligence when the employee accidentally installs malware on a local machine or gives up network credentials during a phishing attack. Both of these incidents are the most difficult for network administrators to defend against. Malware writers are always looking for new ways to avoid anti-malware defenses, and having legitimate credentials for remote network access does not throw up any red flags unless the attacker is in another country.

Even though these attacks are difficult to detect, you can still find ways to defend and avoid the overwhelming data loss during an insider threat attack.

Detect and Deter

When an employee becomes an insider threat, some noticeable trends happen on the network. It’s common for them to log in at odd hours thinking that no one will physically see what they are accessing. You can set up logs and audit controls to verify that the employee is accessing sensitive data. Several benchmark audit controls are available that let you set a baseline to determine when suspicious access happens on any files or data.

With the right auditing and logging tools, you’ll have access to analytics that let you know when data has been accessed, by whom, and the time of day. This helps with overall monitoring of your data, which is the best way to determine if an employee is suspiciously reading data that isn’t necessary for their job description.

Employee training is another benefit. In many cases, other employees that know how to identify insider threats are the ones that alert IT and network administrators of suspicious activity. This is why cyber security experts suggest that there are rotating people that handle certain tasks. An alternative employee might find strange activity on the network when they take over for the employee that’s gone rogue.

Other insider threats threaten your network. Physical access to the premises and access to unlocked desktops leave your network vulnerable to social engineers. It’s a surprising way for attackers with the right social skills to gain access to your network just from the negligence of an employee that leaves a desktop unlocked. This type of attack can also happen when one employee is able to access an unlocked desktop and steal data using an innocent employee’s credentials. This leaves it difficult to pinpoint the insider threat.

GateKeeper is one way you can defend against this type of attack, and it’s a great addition to your cyber security defenses.

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