- Despite advanced tech defenses, human errors account for 24% of data breaches, while the art of social engineering, especially phishing, manipulates individuals into security breaches.
- The rise in remote work has accentuated cybersecurity threats, with a 38% increase in attacks targeting remote employees in 2022.
- Additionally, the phenomenon of Shadow IT, where technology is used without IT department approval, poses further risks.
- Insightful's new insider threat detection functionality aims to combat these issues, providing real-time alerts that common monitoring software lacks.
Read time: 8 minutes
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! — a time meant to shine a spotlight on the imperative of online safety.
Incepted in 2004 as a joint venture between government and industry, this October tradition was designed to arm every American with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the digital realm securely.
As we celebrate #CybersecurityAwarenessMonth, it's crucial to remember that while external cyber threats frequently capture the limelight in today's interconnected age, the internal threats lurking in the shadows can be equally, if not more, catastrophic.
A sobering 68% of data breaches arise from such internal threats, whether borne out of malicious intent or mere oversight. This alarming statistic accentuates the importance of robust detection mechanisms.
The silent threat from within is real: a majority of cybersecurity threats stem from internal actors, and since 2020, these have seen an uptick in over half of all businesses. This article delves deep into the world of internal cybersecurity challenges that organizations face and explores how a comprehensive employee monitoring program can help.
Internal Cybersecurity Threat #1: Human Error & Social Engineering
In the realm of cybersecurity, the most technologically advanced defense mechanisms can sometimes falter in the face of simple human errors or clever manipulation techniques known as social engineering. Delving deeper into this issue is essential to grasp its significance in the broader cybersecurity context.
A surprising 24% of data breaches arise from unintentional human mistakes. These errors can range from overlooked security configurations to the careless handling of confidential data. The potential ramifications are vast, with even small oversights posing threats of data exposure.
Key Departments at Risk:
IT Department: Positioned at the core of an organization's tech-related operations, the IT department is constantly handling sensitive system configurations and data. A single mistake can give cybercriminals a way in.
HR Department: With access to personal and sometimes financial details of employees, the HR department becomes a prime target. Breaches here can arise from unintentional data sharing or insecure storage methods.
R&D Department: The Research and Development sector, tasked with proprietary projects and technologies, can suffer substantial setbacks if their confidential work is accessed without authorization.
How to prevent internal threats from human error:
- Regular Training: Conduct frequent cybersecurity awareness training for employees to ensure they are familiar with the latest threats and best practices.
- Robust Policies: Implement strict security policies that clearly outline dos and don’ts regarding data handling and device use.
- Double-checking: Before sending out sensitive information or making critical system changes, enforce a double-check or approval system.
- Automated Systems: Employ systems that automatically detect and correct common security misconfigurations.
A deliberate and nefarious strategy, social engineering, is all about manipulating individuals to either give away sensitive information or to act in a way that breaches security. Phishing remains the most notorious form of social engineering.
What is phishing?
Cybercriminals employ phishing by sending deceptive communications, typically emails, which seem as if they originate from trustworthy sources. These messages cunningly coax individuals into revealing sensitive data or interacting with malicious content.
Despite the awareness, phishing's success rate remains alarmingly high, ensnaring even tech-savvy individuals. Once these attackers gain access, it's a sobering reality that it takes companies an average of about nine months to detect and remedy these invasions.
Notable Phishing Attacks:
Facebook: Cybercriminals sent fraudulent invoices which resulted in a staggering loss of over $100 million.
Microsoft 365: Users were confronted with fake login prompts which, when interacted with, led to the installation of malicious code.
Google Drive: Users received links to malicious documents which, upon being clicked, redirected them to phishing websites designed to steal their information.
How to prevent social engineering threats:
- Employee Vigilance: Educate employees about the tactics employed by phishers and other cybercriminals.
- Advanced Email Filtering: Utilize sophisticated email filtering systems that can detect and quarantine phishing attempts.
- Two-factor Authentication (2FA): Ensure all critical accounts have 2FA enabled, making it harder for attackers to gain access even with the correct credentials.
- Regular Simulations: Conduct mock phishing attempts to train and test employee vigilance.
Internal Cybersecurity Threat #2: Remote Workforce
The contemporary work model has seen a seismic shift towards remote operations, driven by various factors like technological advancements and, more recently, black swan global events like the pandemic. However, this transition hasn't been without its challenges, particularly in the domain of cybersecurity.
Surge in Cyber Attacks
Remote work brought with it a spike in cybersecurity threats. In 2022 alone, there was a substantial 38% uptick in cyberattacks targeting remote employees. This stark rise showcases the vulnerabilities inherent in decentralized work environments, where traditional office-based security measures are often absent.
Unsafe Data Practices
The lines between professional and personal data handling can blur when employees are working from the comforts of their homes. This can result in unsafe practices such as sending sensitive company data over unencrypted channels, storing work-related information on personal systems without adequate security protections, or sharing login credentials informally. Such lapses can inadvertently provide cybercriminals with easy access points.
Use of Unauthorized Personal Devices
Unlike in controlled office environments, remote work often sees employees using their own devices for professional tasks. These personal devices might not adhere to the same stringent security standards that company-provided hardware does. They could be lacking in essential security updates, might be infected with malware, or could be connected to insecure networks, making them prime targets for attackers.
How to prevent internal threats in your remote workforce:
- Secure Communication: Mandate the use of encrypted communication tools for official communication.
- Endpoint Security: Ensure all devices, whether company-provided or personal, have up-to-date security software.
- VPN: Require employees to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) when accessing company resources.
- Clear Guidelines: Establish clear and strict guidelines on data storage and sharing practices for remote employees.
- Device Audits: Regularly audit the devices used by employees to ensure compliance with security standards.
Internal Cybersecurity Threat #3: Shadow IT
The advancement of technology and the adaptability of modern employees have given rise to a phenomenon that IT departments often dread: Shadow IT. This refers to the usage of technology, software, devices, or applications within an organization without the explicit knowledge or approval of the IT department.
While it might seem like a convenient shortcut for employees, shadow IT poses significant risks to an organization's cybersecurity posture.
Resistance to Official Security Measures
With the convenience of modern-day technology, many remote workers opt for tools and applications that suit their needs and familiarity, even if they aren't officially sanctioned by their organization. This often happens because they view official security measures as cumbersome or hindering their productivity.
When employees bypass these established protocols, they inadvertently expose the organization to vulnerabilities, as the unsanctioned tools may not meet the company's security standards.
The Allure of Cloud Services
The cloud revolution has democratized access to powerful tools and platforms. While this has numerous advantages, it also means that employees can easily sign up for cloud services without going through the IT department. Such actions not only risk data leakage but also may lead to compliance violations, especially in sectors with strict regulatory frameworks.
Undocumented APIs Creating Vulnerabilities
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) serve as the building blocks for many modern applications. However, when these APIs are undocumented or utilized without the IT department's awareness, they can become gateways for cyberattacks. Malicious actors can exploit these less-secure interfaces, leading to data breaches or system compromises.
How to prevent threats from Shadow IT:
- Open Communication: Create a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their IT needs, reducing the temptation to find "workarounds".
- Approved Tool List: Provide a list of approved tools and apps for employees and keep it updated based on their feedback.
- Monitor Network Traffic: Employ network monitoring tools to detect unauthorized software and app usage.
- Strict Access Controls: Implement role-based access controls ensuring employees can only access what they need.
- Cloud Control: Use Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) to monitor and manage cloud services usage.
- API Management: Ensure all APIs, even if internally developed, meet security standards and are regularly audited.
Insightful Introduces New Insider Threat Detection Functionality
In response to the rising internal data threats, Insightful has unveiled its innovative insider threat detection functionality within their comprehensive software for employee monitoring. With recent studies highlighting that 68% of data breaches stem from internal sources and companies facing annual insider threat resolution costs averaging $15.4 million, the demand for advanced threat solutions has never been higher.
Insightful's enhanced features offer:
- Real-time alerts for potential security breaches.
- In-depth forensics, auditing, and proactive risk detection.
- Enhanced protection for in-office, hybrid, or remote teams.
- Monitoring unauthorized app/website usage, high-risk keywords, and policy violations.
Insider threats can arise from intentional data leaks by unsatisfied employees, inadvertent information sharing, or mere oversight like not logging off company systems. Ivan Petrovic, Insightful's CEO, emphasized the growing complexity and cost of insider threats in our increasingly data-dependent world. He assured that their solution not only safeguards organizations but also supports productivity.
The new cybersecurity features will supplement Insightful's existing employee monitoring, time tracking, and productivity tools. Here’s how Insightful’s security alerts work:
Real-Time Alerts: Insightful offers instant notifications about negligent or intentionally malicious behavior. This allows businesses to promptly take action when an insider threat is detected.
Monitoring Unauthorized Access: The software can identify unauthorized app and website usage, helping businesses pinpoint potential data security threats. This also includes instant alerts that aid in preventing data leakage.
Keyword Monitoring: Insightful detects risky keywords in organization-wide communications. This feature enables businesses to spot suspicious behavior, thereby aiding in the proactive prevention of data breaches or policy violations.
Policy Violation Alerts: Companies can customize alerts based on their specific policies to ensure compliance. This could be related to restricted access to specific directories or adherence to ethical standards.
In-Depth IT Forensics: The software provides a comprehensive insight into end user behavior that may have led to a security breach. Detailed activity logs and real-time screenshots, triggered by alerts, serve as digital evidence. This helps businesses understand the exact sequence of events and the context behind an insider threat incident.
Risk User Identification: Insightful offers a dashboard that displays alerts and highlights high-risk actions. This enables businesses to uncover common behaviors of employees and teams that might be risk-prone.
What does it look like in practice?
Scenario: Preventing Data Leakage due to Unauthorized Application Use
An employee at a multinational corporation starts using a new cloud-based application to streamline their work process. This application hasn't been approved by the company's IT department and could have potential vulnerabilities.
- Real-time Alerts: As soon as the application is accessed, Insightful's monitoring system identifies this unfamiliar activity.
- Monitoring Unauthorized Access: Insightful flags this new application as potentially risky since it hasn't been whitelisted by the IT department.
- Risk User Identification: The employee's activity is showcased on the dashboard, indicating potential risk.
Prompt action by the IT department, informed by Insightful's alerts, prevents any data from being compromised. They address the issue with the employee, informing them about the security risks and either sanctioning the application or recommending a safer alternative.
Scenario: Detecting Potential Insider Threat via Keyword Monitoring
A staff member at a tech firm, unhappy with their current role, contemplates selling proprietary data to a rival company. They communicate with potential buyers via company channels, using suggestive keywords.
- Keyword Monitoring: Suspicious keywords in the employee's communications are immediately flagged by Insightful's system.
- Real-Time Alerts: Notifications are instantly dispatched to the security team, indicating possible harmful behavior.
- In-Depth IT Forensics: Insightful gathers detailed activity logs, screenshots, and other evidence, shedding light on the nature of the employee's communications.
- Policy Violation Alerts: The employee's actions contravene the company's confidentiality policy, triggering another set of alerts.
Thanks to Insightful's timely alerts, the company's security team can act swiftly, ensuring proprietary information remains safeguarded. The situation is then managed by the company's legal and HR departments, mitigating potential business risks.
By integrating these cybersecurity features, Insightful’s remote employee monitoring software not only fortifies organizational data but also augments employee productivity. The company remains poised at the forefront of ensuring a safer, more secure digital working environment.