An insider threat is any potential risk that an employee might use privileged or unauthorized access, information, or resources to harm an organization. However, insider threats differentiate from traditional cybercriminal in that the perpetrator is someone who has been granted some sort of access to an organization’s network and systems. Thus, it may come as a surprise to many businesses that there are more insider attacks than external cyberattacks.
An insider threat risk assessment is an analysis of your business’s risks from malicious insiders. These assessments involve identifying several key indicators for insider threats and verifying actions within your business processes and security controls that mitigate those risks. They also assist organizations in understanding their exposure to these threats, which helps them establish appropriate policies and procedures to reduce their risks to a reasonable level.
Why is an Insider Threat Risk Assessment Important?
Insider threat risk assessments assist with identifying the most common indicators of insider threats and the risk associated with each of these indicators. This enables organizations to prioritizes risk remediation. A successful insider threat risk assessment will result in a thorough assessment of the potential risks posed by malicious insiders. It will also include detailed recommendations for how to mitigate these risks. This includes reviewing and updating your organization’s policies and procedures to include best practices for mitigating the risks associated with malicious insiders. More importantly, it will help prevent malicious individuals from accessing sensitive data or systems and disrupting or damaging operations.
How to conduct an effective insider threat risk assessment?
An insider threat risk assessment will vary based on the organization’s size and industry, as well as its overall risk profile. Generally speaking, however, an insider threat risk assessment will include the following key steps:
- Establishing a baseline: Identifying how many employees have access to sensitive data, systems, and information. Assessing the potential for harm from malicious insiders.
- Identifying indicators of risk: These indicators may include workplace environment, background checks, computer network indicators or unusual work habits.
- Assessing the risk of each indicator: Determining whether the indicator might lead to a malicious insider attack and what the potential impact could be.
- Identifying and recommending mitigation strategies: Outlining the most appropriate controls to help mitigate the risk associated with each indicator.
- Documenting your findings: Effectively communicate your results to stakeholders and provide a roadmap for future action.
Identify potential insider threats
A key activity in conducting an insider threat risk assessment is to identify potential insider threats. This may seem like a simple task, but it’s important to consider a variety of factors.
First, you’ll want to consider the type of employees who have access to sensitive data, systems, or information. You’ll also want to consider the overall risk posed by these individuals. This includes their potential for harm, the probability that they will actually cause harm, and the potential impact of the harm.
Next, you’ll want to consider the method for which employees are granted access to sensitive data, systems, and information. There are a variety of different methods for granting access. This includes the hiring process, systems and data rights, and access revoking.
Assessing the risk of an insider threat
Once you’ve identified potential insider threats within your organization, the next step is to assess the risk associated with each of these threats. Take a closer look at the indicators that indicate a malicious insider threat. By assessing each indicator, you’ll be able to determine attack likelihood and the potential impact.
Organizational Risk Culture Assessment
The organizational risk culture assessment will help you determine the level of risk your organization’s employees have for engaging in malicious insider attacks. The purpose of this assessment is to determine the effectiveness of your organization’s current risk management practices. This includes the security awareness training practices, the policies and procedures for monitoring employee behavior, and the effectiveness of your incident response plan.
An organizational risk culture assessment will help you identify the factors that may be contributing to an elevated risk culture within your organization. This includes the overall sentiment towards risk and the level of risk employees feel comfortable taking. By identifying the factors that contribute to your organization’s risk culture, you’ll be better equipped for making changes to reduce the risk posed by malicious insiders.
Employee Behavior and Attitudes Assessment
The purpose is to determine the level of risk your employees have for engaging in malicious insider attacks. By assessing their behavior and attitudes, you’ll be able to identify any weaknesses in your current practices. For example the need for security awareness training, necessary changes risk mitigation, or the effectiveness of your incident response plan.
An employee behavior and attitudes assessment may include a variety of different methods for collecting data. This may include collecting data from employee surveys, focus groups, and structured interviews with management and other employees within the organization.
Network and Data Discovery Assessment
This assessment will help you identify the level of risk your networks and data have for malicious insider attacks. The purpose of this assessment is to determine the overall effectiveness of your network and data discovery practices:
- how your employees are accessing systems,
- the security of your network,
- the effectiveness of your monitoring practices,
- the level of visibility and control you have over your networks.
An organizational network and data discovery assessment may include a variety of different methods for collecting data. This may include the use of network discovery tools, data discovery tools, and employee interviews and surveys. The goal is determine the factors contributing to an elevated risk of malicious insider attacks.
In addition to manage risks posed by malicious employees, network and data discovery assessment is now a Best Practice to comply with Data Privacy and Protection regulation such as GDPR or PDPA..
An insider threat risk assessment is an important process for any organization to follow. This is particularly true for organizations that handle sensitive information like healthcare providers and financial institutions. An insider threat risk assessment helps you identify the potential risks posed by malicious insiders and act on it. It is easier to protect your organization against cyberattacks, data breaches, and other fraudulent activities induces by internal misbehavior.