5 Insider Threat Indicators You Need to Address

Learn the top five insider threat indicators to look out for and how threat protection software can prevent costly incidents to your business.

May 15, 2023 · READ

Do you lock your house, car, or office when you leave? We all know that leaving doors open, unlocked, or unprotected — just one time — can result in theft and damages. The same level of protection should be commonplace with your devices. Not securing your laptop or phone with a passcode and leaving them unattended is an open invitation for threats and data breaches.

A large part of data breaches are actually a result of insider threats, with ransomware and email compromises being the two most common types of attacks — 25% and 30% respectively in Q3 2022, according to Kroll — which is why being able to recognize insider threat indicators is imperative.

Investing in threat protection software that safeguards your organization’s data from internal and external threats can prevent costly and adverse incidents. But first, you have to understand the nature of insider threats. Here are the top five insider threat indicators to look out for:

1. Irregular logins

Irregular logins are a critical red flag to look out for when detecting insider threat indicators. If not monitored, this could mean that an unauthorized user has gained access to sensitive company information. That’s why it’s necessary to have a system in place to monitor for irregular logins and quickly respond to suspicious login activity, including:

High login volume

Noticing that an employee or authorized user repeatedly logs in could be an insider threat to your organization. Multiple logins could be an employee trying to steal data or a hacker attempting to use someone’s credentials to access sensitive information.

A threat protection solution can make flagging and investigating high login volumes more efficient, allowing organizations to better detect, mitigate, and protect themselves from insider security risks. Once these insider threat indicators are flagged, limiting access to sensitive information can also prevent unauthorized logins. Thus ensuring that employees only have access to systems and data pertaining to their job functions.

Unusual login locations and times

Unusual login times can suggest that someone may be accessing a system at a time when they shouldn’t be. For example, if an employee logs into a system at 2:00 AM when they usually don’t work overnight, they could be trying to access sensitive information without being detected.

This insider threat can also reveal potential unauthorized access. If an employee’s login activity shows multiple logins from different locations within a short time, it could suggest that someone is using their credentials to access the system without their knowledge.

Monitoring and analyzing login times can help detect insider threats and prevent potential data breaches. Organizations should have strict security protocols in place, including multifactor authentication and regular monitoring of employee login activity, to minimize the risk of and be able to detect insider threat indicators.

2. Changes in access privileges or credentials

Sometimes an insider threat comes without an employee’s knowledge or malicious intent and is often in the form of phishing attacks. They could have unknowingly exposed the company to the threat of a bad actor who could then access sensitive information. Other times, insiders take advantage of an organization’s lack of security measures by accessing and altering data that could be more secure.

Organizations with user profiles siloed across numerous platforms and processes compound the likelihood of a breach. Users at these organizations are also more likely to reuse the same credentials for multiple platforms, meaning one breach may compromise many systems, adding urgency to the need to monitor insider threat indicators.

Centralizing credentials in a single-sign-on (SSO) tool makes managing unique and secure logins easy. Doing so can simplify security efforts by reducing the number of accounts your team needs to monitor.

Maximizing Your GRC Benefits: Build a Strong Business Case with Impactful Strategies Read more

3. Increased system searches

An employee with increased system searches could indicate an insider threat as they may be trying to gather information or access files outside their job responsibilities. This could include searching for sensitive information, intellectual property, or other confidential data.

In some cases, an employee may search topics or systems unrelated to their job responsibilities, which could be a sign of malicious intent, indicating an attempt to find and exfiltrate confidential data. For example, an employee in the marketing department may not have a legitimate reason to search for sensitive customer information in the accounting department’s database.

It’s important to note that increased system searches alone may not be enough to conclude an insider threat. However, it can be a warning sign that should be investigated further to determine if any malicious intent or actions are taking place. Organizations must continuously monitor system searches and establish thresholds for acceptable search volumes to better protect themselves from insider threats and other security risks.

4. Large data transfers

Ransomware attacks often start with an insider uploading large files to the system or downloading large amounts of sensitive data. A few signs of these insider threat indicators include:

  • Large files being sent or received from external domains via email
  • Multiple files being printed simultaneously on different printers from a single user
  • Critical assets being moved to a single file or access point
  • A large number of files being copied
  • Data downloads from unknown sources
  • Significant changes to system data that other team members were not made aware of in advance

Note that any of these events may be spread out over a period of time to avoid suspicion. In fact, according to IBM, the median time to identify an early-stage breach is 231 days, so it’s important to remain vigilant when monitoring.

5. Employee behavior changes

No matter how invested in corporate culture a company might be, not all employees may be thrilled with their job. Perhaps they didn’t receive the promotion they thought was theirs or their annual increase wasn’t what they hoped for. Regardless, some dissatisfied employees could pose a security risk by using their access to sensitive information to vent their frustrations.

Sudden or erratic changes in an employee’s behavior, like staying late after work or trying to access data outside of their everyday responsibilities, could indicate an insider threat. Sometimes disgruntled former employees may still have access to their credentials, which is why organizations must promptly deactivate employee login information following a termination.

Should insider threat indicators become an attack, identifying employee records to see who may have the access, opportunity, and motive to carry out a data breach is the first step. The key to success is establishing documentation and reporting inappropriate behaviors to recognize patterns of concern early on.

When it comes to preventing this threat, cultivating a culture of insider threat awareness can make a huge difference. Implementing employee training programs that focus on recognizing and reporting suspicious activity can help prevent and mitigate insider threats.

If a pattern arises, ensuring you have the tools to flag, monitor, and potentially investigate the employee as a person of interest is key to addressing and getting ahead of workplace security and HR concerns.

Connect the dots on insider threat indicators with Resolver’s threat protection software

Insider threat indicators can reveal substantial security risks for organizations of all sizes. However, organizations can detect and prevent insider threats by implementing effective security measures before they cause significant harm.

Resolver’s threat protection software connects the dots on an organization’s threat landscape. Our centralized security risk data solutions, and advanced threat intelligence integrations, can quickly reduce the signal from the noise, flagging persons of interest. Identify patterns, and detect potential threats before they escalate.

Maximize your security team’s ability to stay on top of threats with our automated incident response workflows and case management features, allowing effective threat and incident tracking and response. Interested in learning more about how Resolver’s powerful threat protection software can help protect your organization from insider threats and other security risks? Book a custom demo today!

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