How to spot the 10 most common insider threat profiles
Organizations continuously face the daunting task of having to protect their systems and resources from varying security challenges. While the focus is mainly on the threats posed by external factors, there should also be an equal focus on threats from within. These Insider threats are ones posed by individuals who have authorized access to company information or systems and can use this access for a host of nefarious reasons.
Insider threats often come in different profiles, varying on the characteristics and intent of the individual. Often enough, these profiles are difficult to spot as their characteristics are not easily known.
Organizations need to be able to understand and classify these sometimes-unpredictable actors by understanding the various profiles they fall under and what their motivations are. For better context, here are the most common insider threats profiles organizations should be on the look-out for;
This insider threat profile involves employees who harbor resentment, dissatisfaction, or anger toward the organization they work for. They may feel unappreciated or mistreated, leading to potentially malicious actions against the company.
- Frequent complaints or negative comments about the organization.
- Increased absenteeism or declining performance.
- Demonstrates a lack of collaboration with colleagues.
- Exhibits excessive passive-aggressive behavior.
The malicious insider intentionally seeks to harm the organization for personal gain, revenge, or ideological reasons. They may have a history of unethical behavior and are willing to bypass policies and rules to achieve their objectives. The difference between a malicious insider and a disgruntled employee is that the malicious insider may not always be a disgruntled employee, but rather an individual with a nefarious agenda.
- Unauthorized access to sensitive data or systems, particularly after designated working hours.
- Suspicious behavior, such as attempts to hide activities or frequent logins during unusual hours.
- Sudden confrontational behavior and disregard for authority.
- Exhibits a sudden change in financial circumstances.
This insider threat profile involves employees who display a lack of attention to detail and neglect security protocols. They may mishandle sensitive information or fall victim to social engineering attacks.
- Frequently leaves sensitive documents unattended.
- Fails to follow password best practices, such as using weak passwords or sharing them with others.
- Shows poor judgment in decision-making.
- Frequently falls victim to phishing emails or other social engineering tactics.
- Demonstrates a lack of awareness about security practices.
The unintentional insider becomes a threat due to ignorance or negligence rather than malicious intent. They may unknowingly share confidential information or inadvertently install malicious software.
- Accidental disclosure of sensitive information to unauthorized individuals.
- Falls victim to social engineering attacks.
- Lacks understanding of data classification and protection measures.
- Fails to recognize potential security risks in day-to-day activities.
- Exhibits a lack of knowledge about the organization’s security policies.
This insider threat profile involves employees who exploit their privileges and access confidential data beyond what is necessary for their role. They may exhibit a sense of entitlement and disregard access restrictions, often because they occupy high positions in an organization.
- Frequent attempts to access data or systems outside their authorized scope.
- Unauthorized modifications to permissions or privileges.
- Exhibits a lack of respect for privacy boundaries.
- Demonstrates a need for control and micromanagement.
- Regularly challenges or questions the organization’s authority.
The insider collaborator colludes with external threat actors or competitors, providing them with sensitive information or compromising the organization’s security. They engage in covert communication and exhibit abnormal behavior patterns.
- Unusual patterns of communication, such as frequent contact with external entities.
- Engages in suspicious or unauthorized file transfers.
- Displays a sudden shift in work habits or preferences.
The insider trader leverages confidential company information for personal financial gain. They engage in unauthorized trading activities and demonstrate abnormal interest in stock markets while having access to privileged financial data.
- Unexplained or suspicious financial transactions or investments.
- Abnormally accurate predictions or knowledge of future company events.
- Demonstrates excessive interest in personal financial gain.
- Maintains close relationships with individuals involved in trading or investments.
- Exhibits signs of a lavish lifestyle inconsistent with their income.
The negligent administrator fails to enforce security policies effectively and neglects system updates and patches. They demonstrate inadequate oversight, allowing unauthorized access and unrestricted administrative privileges.
- Failure to implement security patches or updates in a timely manner.
- Inconsistent enforcement of access controls or administrative restrictions.
- Displays a lack of accountability for security-related tasks.
- Fails to respond promptly to security incidents or breaches.
- Demonstrates a lack of knowledge regarding system vulnerabilities and best practices.
The infiltrator pretends to be a legitimate employee or contractor to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or systems. They assume false identities and exploit weak verification processes.
- Unfamiliar or suspicious personnel attempting to access restricted areas or systems.
- Unauthorized attempts to access multiple departments or sensitive data.
- Exhibits a lack of familiarity with internal processes and protocols.
- Demonstrates a desire to gather excessive information or access unrelated to their role.
- Maintains inconsistent or fabricated personal details.
The espionage agent works on behalf of a foreign entity or competitor to gather classified information from the organization. They exhibit suspicious behavior, engage in unauthorized communication, and attempt to access sensitive data outside their job scope.
- Unusual or secretive communication patterns with foreign entities or competitors.
- Unauthorized attempts to access confidential or classified information.
- Demonstrates a lack of loyalty or patriotism towards the organization.
- Exhibits an excessive interest in sensitive projects or proprietary information.
- Maintains contacts with individuals involved in intelligence or espionage activities.
While it is near impossible to completely mitigate the risks posed by insider threats, organizations can adopt certain practices that help reduce the risk drastically. These practices are;
- Developing and enforcing a robust and dynamic cyber security policy that also covers employee training, alert and monitoring, IAM controls, and incident response.
- Promoting a work culture centered on trust, open communication, and employee well-being. Addressing conflicts in due time, providing anonymous channels for reporting concerns, and encouraging them also goes a long way.
- Behavioral background checks should also be conducted when employing individuals. This helps weed out individuals with a high risk of becoming insider threats and individuals with a history of misconduct.
- Security Awareness Training should also be conducted regularly. This helps keep employees abreast of the best security practices and how to identify phishing and other types of social engineering attacks
- Organizations should also adopt the principle of least privilege. This ensures that employees only have access to the resources they need to perform their duties effectively. Privileges should also be reviewed at periodic intervals.
- Organizations should also monitor User activity by using data loss prevention software that monitors all file events taking place in a user’s system, allowing for automatic logging and intervention any time a user takes prohibited actions.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) should also be adopted to add an extra layer of security for accessing critical systems and/or data.
Insider threats pose a significant risk to organizations, and their impacts can be devastating. By understanding the ten most common insider threat profiles and adopting proactive measures to reduce the risk, organizations can enhance their security posture and protect themselves from potential breaches. With a combination of robust security policies, employee training, and continuous monitoring, businesses can mitigate insider threats and safeguard their sensitive information and assets.