Types of Insider Threats
Digital supply chains have many blind spots or cracks that attackers can take advantage of, resulting in increased severity and frequency of attacks.
companies experience more than 20 incidents per year
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An insider threat may be executed intentionally or unintentionally but are the cause of most data breaches. Traditional cybersecurity strategies, policies, procedures and systems often focus on external threats, leaving the organization vulnerable to attacks from within. Because the insider already has valid authorization to data and systems, it’s difficult for security professionals and applications to distinguish between normal and harmful activity.
Malicious insiders have a distinct advantage over other categories of malicious attackers because of their familiarity with enterprise systems, processes, procedures, policies and users. They are keenly aware of system versions and the vulnerabilities therein. Organizations must therefore tackle insider threats with at least as much rigor as they do external threats.
Malicious Insider Threats
Also referred to as a turncloak, the principal goals of malicious insider threats include espionage, fraud, intellectual property theft and sabotage. They intentionally abuse their privileged access to steal information or degrade systems for financial, personal and/or malicious reasons. Examples include an employee who sells confidential data to a competitor or a disgruntled former contractor who introduces debilitating malware on the organization’s network.
Malicious insider threats may be collaborators or lone wolves.
Collaborators are authorized users who work with a third party to intentionally harm the organization. The third party may be a competitor, nation-state, organized criminal network or an individual. The collaborator’s action would lead to the leak of confidential information or the disruption of business operations.
Lone wolves operate entirely independently and act without external manipulation or influence. They can be especially dangerous because they often have privileged system access such as database administrators.
Careless Insider Threats
Careless insider security threats occur inadvertently. They are often the result of human error, poor judgement, unintentional aiding and abetting, convenience, phishing (and other social engineering tactics), malware and stolen credentials. The individual involved unknowingly exposes enterprise systems to external attack.
Careless insider threats may be pawns or goofs.
Pawns are authorized users who have been manipulated into unintentionally acting maliciously, often through social engineering techniques such as spear phishing. These unintentional acts could include downloading malware to their computer or disclosing confidential information to an impostor.
Goofs deliberately take potentially harmful actions but harbor no malicious intent. They are arrogant, ignorant and/or incompetent users who do not recognize the need to follow security policies and procedures. A goof may be a user who stores confidential customer information on their personal device, even though they know it’s against organizational policy.
A mole is an outsider but one who has gained insider access to the organization’s systems. They may pose as a vendor, partner, contractor or employee, thereby obtaining privileged authorization they otherwise would not qualify for.