What Is An Insider Threat? A Simple Overview (2021)


As the name suggests, an insider threat is a threat which an organisation faces from internal sources. The security risk originates within a particular organisation. It basically involves a current or former employee of a business enterprise having access to the important data and misusing it for his own benefit. This employee has access to sensitive information about the organisation within the network. Insider threats are difficult to identify as compared to external ones.

Usually, security measures focus on external threats, not keeping in mind that threats from internal sources also possess major harm and destruction to the enterprise. Insider threat should also be given priority to decrease the data breaches and threats emanating from an organisation. There is various type of insider threats – the types are discussed below:

  • Malicious insider: This type of insider threat is also known as Turncloak. When a hacker steals information for his personal financial gain by typically abusing legitimate credentials. E.g. when a former employee or an individual holds a grudge against a particular enterprise or an opportunistic employee who is offered some compensation for stealing from a rival enterprise. Turncloaks are more advantageous than hackers because they have access to the sensitive information of the enterprise. 
  • Careless insider: This individual has no intention of deceiving the business enterprise but unknowingly does so. One of the most common types of insider threats a careless insider is himself a victim of unknown links or scams. E.g. an employee may unknowingly click on an unsecured link intending no harm to the enterprise. 
  • A mole: This is an outside person who has gained access to the sensitive information provided by the enterprise. Basically, an outsider possesses an inside partner or employee. 
  1. Malicious insider threat indicators
  2. How to protect oneself from an insider attack – best practices
  3. Insider threat detection solutions

1. Malicious insider threat indicators

Abnormal activity within an organisation can indicate an insider threat. If an employee appears to be dissatisfied for a long time or holds a grudge against the enterprise, this may lead to an insider threat. Some of the trackable insider threats include:

  • Activity at unusual times: If you notice someone signing in to the network at 3 a.m. get alerted as this is an indication of an insider threat.
  • The volume of traffic: If you happen to observe that too much data is being transferred from one system to another is a possible detection of insider threat.
  • The type of activity: Observe what type of files are being accessed by your employees or users of data to keep a check on any possible insider threats.

2. How to protect oneself from an insider attack – best practices

Insider threat security can be implemented by following the practices mentioned below:

  • Protection of critical assets: All physical, or logical critical assets must be protected at all times. Put down a comprehensive understanding of all the critical assets possessed by your enterprise and keep a regular check on them for insider threat security. The critical assets may include customer data, schematics, proprietary software and intellectual properties. 
  • Enforce policies: Prevent misunderstandings by laying down well-appointed organisational policies and rules to enforce them in times of needs. Make sure each and everyone in the organisation is familiar with the policies and rules. The employees must understand their privileges and must ensure that they use the data in the best possible way without causing any harm to the enterprise. 
  • Increase visibility: Keep a check on the actions and activities of the employees and correlate information received from multiple data sources. Ensure that you conduct a full-proof background check on the employee before giving access to the sensitive information.
  • Promote culture changes: Insider threat program adheres not only to the know-how but also to the attitudes, morals and beliefs of each employee. Educate your employees on the risks of an insider attack, after-effects of an attack and security issues. Prevent negligence and malicious attacks by working towards improving employee satisfaction.

3. Insider threat detection solutions

Insider threat detection may look very easy but is essentially harder than detecting threats from an external source. The main reason being insider threats are invisible to old-styled security solutions like intrusion detection systems and firewalls. These traditional security systems focus on outsider threats and ignore insider threats. When an insider logs in to the network, the system may not detect any abnormality. Moreover, the insiders are more familiar with every security policy of the company, making it easier for them to hack into the system.

Diversifying insider threat detection strategy is required to protect all the assets instead of being stuck to one solution. An insider threat detection system which is effective includes several tools which not only monitor the behaviour of insiders but also eliminate false positives. Insider threat detection tools include machine learning applications which help analyse the data stream and prioritise the most relevant alerts.


After reading the above blog, we hope you have a detailed idea of the insider threat definition and insider threat management.

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