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How to Build an Effective Insider Risk Management Program

Iain Roberts | 6 min read| Updated On - March 27, 2024

Insider Risk Management Program

In recent years, we’ve seen a marked rise in security incidents caused by insiders. The Ponemon Institute’s 2022 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report revealed a significant increase of 67% in companies experiencing insider-driven incidents. Insider risk refers to the potential for harm to an organization caused by individuals who have authorized access to its systems, data, or other resources. These individuals may include employees, contractors, or other trusted parties who exploit their access to engage in malicious activities, such as data theft, sabotage, or fraud. Unlike external threats, insider risks arise from within the organization, making them harder to detect and prevent. In addition to the security risks, insider threats can cause significant financial and reputational damage, and organizations need to implement robust security measures and monitoring systems to mitigate these risks and protect their assets.

The Impact of Digitalization on Businesses

While digitalization has opened up new avenues for growth and innovation, the cybersecurity risks that come with this transition have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, with many organizations still focusing primarily on external threats. However, trusted insiders can inadvertently or intentionally compromise data and systems, posing a significant threat to organizations. According to a Ponemon Institute study, the average cost of an insider incident is a staggering $15.38 million. The increased awareness of insider threats has led to a paradigm shift in cybersecurity, leading to a much greater focus on insider risk management.

Different Types of Malicious Activities

Below are the types of malicious activities that must be covered by an insider risk management program:

Sabotage: This entails purposeful acts of harm or disruption, often motivated by political or military strategy and often includes actions such as deleting backups or erasing critical data.

Espionage: This involves the covert gathering of sensitive information, usually by governments for political purposes. An example is when a foreign government employs an insider to gain access to confidential information, potentially leading to blackmail or economic exploitation.

Theft of sensitive data: This includes unauthorized acquisition of data from electronic devices for malicious purposes, such as data breaches or intellectual property theft.

Steps to Build an Effective Insider Risk Management Program

To mitigate insider risks, organizations should first develop a comprehensive insider risk management program. This program should include clearly defined governance structures and policies, ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions. Effective programs also include robust risk management processes that assess and prioritize potential threats based on the criticality of assets. Additionally, educational initiatives should be implemented to raise awareness of insider threats and foster a risk-aware culture within the organization. Technological solutions can play a vital role in identifying and mitigating insider threats. These solutions analyze data and identify suspicious activity that may indicate malicious intent. By implementing technical controls, such as activity monitoring, access controls, and data classification, organizations can strengthen their security posture. These controls should be complemented by well-defined security policies and a culture of accountability that emphasizes the importance of safeguarding sensitive information.

An effective insider risk management program consists of the following key steps:

Step 1. Secure Leadership Support

When developing a risk management program, it is crucial to secure support from the relevant stakeholders such as executives, cybersecurity experts, and IT management. Their involvement and support are essential in ensuring the program’s success. By securing leadership buy-in, the organization can demonstrate its commitment to cybersecurity and allocate the necessary resources to achieve its goals.

Step 2. Conduct a Risk Assessment

This step involves meticulously identifying the assets that are vital to the organization’s operations and defining the potential hazards that could compromise their integrity. By carefully analyzing these risks, organizations can develop tailored mitigation strategies that effectively reduce the likelihood and impact of negative events. These strategies may include implementing robust cybersecurity measures, establishing disaster recovery plans, and conducting regular risk assessments to ensure ongoing protection.

Step 3. Develop & Enforce Policies

Organizations must establish a comprehensive set of data handling policies. These policies should be regularly updated based on thorough risk assessments, which identify potential vulnerabilities and threats. By clearly defining employee access privileges and usage of sensitive data, organizations can limit the risk of unauthorized access, misuse, or disclosure. This helps to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of data, preventing data breaches and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

Step 4. Train Employees

Employees should be made aware of the risks associated with privilege escalation, unauthorized access to confidential information, and inadvertent breaches due to negligence or human error. By understanding the different threats, employees can be more vigilant in protecting sensitive data and reporting any suspicious activities. Additionally, they should be trained in best practices for safeguarding privileges, such as using strong passwords, limiting access to only what is necessary, and being cautious about sharing sensitive information. By instilling a culture of security awareness and empowering employees to identify and mitigate risks, organizations can reduce their exposure to insider threats and safeguard their valuable assets.

Step 5. Implement Technologies

To ensure compliance with data handling policies, advanced technologies are crucial. These technologies can automate the enforcement of data protection rules, minimizing human error and enhancing data governance. Additionally, they enable the swift detection and prevention of risky activities, such as unauthorized access or improper sharing of sensitive data.

Choosing an Insider Risk Management Solution

Choosing the right insider risk solution is crucial for safeguarding your organization. Your chosen solution should provide a comprehensive suite of capabilities to detect and mitigate insider threats. Look for solutions that automate data handling policy enforcement, ensuring compliance with industry regulations. Machine learning technology is vital for identifying sensitive data across various formats and spotting risky interactions with this data. Additionally, a user-friendly interface will help to consolidate all relevant information, enabling security teams to monitor and respond to threats effectively. By implementing a robust insider risk solution, organizations can proactively protect their sensitive data and maintain a secure environment.

How Lepide Helps to Manage Insider Risks

The Lepide Data Security Platform uses machine learning techniques to monitor user activity and identify unusual patterns or deviations from baseline behavior. By detecting anomalies, it can flag potential insider threats, such as unauthorized access, data manipulation, or policy violations. Our solution can automatically discover and classify critical assets, making it easier for security teams to assign controls to protect these assets. It can identify users who are engaging in suspicious actions, such as accessing sensitive data without authorization, modifying system settings, or interacting with external actors in an inappropriate manner. Our platform enables security teams to actively hunt for insider threats by conducting targeted searches based on specific criteria. It allows them to identify hidden activities, gaps in security controls, and potential insider collaboration networks. It also helps security teams pinpoint the root cause of incidents, identify the responsible individuals, and take appropriate mitigation measures to prevent further damage.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you develop your insider risk management strategy, start your free trial today.

Iain Roberts
Iain Roberts

A highly experienced cyber security consultant with 12 years experience in the security arena.

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