Cyber security

Insider Threats: How to Identify and Mitigate them?

Insider threats

An insider threat refers to a security threat that develops within a targeted organization. Insider threats occur when users with access to an organization’s assets unintentionally or maliciously cause harm to organizations. These threats are not necessarily the current employees but can be third-party vendors, contractors, former employees, or partners who have access to the organization’s confidential data. 

According to the Verizon investigation report of data breaches, 34% of data breaches involve insider threats. And 17% of organizational files were accessible to every employee. These statistics showcase that insider threats have the required capabilities and privileges to steal sensitive data. Therefore, organizations need to examine every threat, defend against all those risks, and secure the perimeter. 

Why are Insider Threats Dangerous? 

Insider threats are dangerous because they involve an internal risk that can cause harm to a business. The actions can be triggered by malice or other negligence. With access to an organization’s resources, these threats can cause significant loss to the organization. 

However, most threats come from insider risk and not from insider threats. Insider risk happens when data is not adequately protected, creating the danger of unintentional threats. In contrast, effective data management and monitoring make malicious attacks ineffectual, thereby minimizing the damage. 

However, detecting insider threats is not an easy task for security teams. The insider user already has access to the organization’s data. And differentiating between regular user activity and malicious user activity is the real challenge. Moreover, the insider actor is already aware of where sensitive information lies and has increased access levels. 

Types of Insider Threats

To protect your company from insider threats, it is crucial to understand what insider threats are and how they look like? The two significant types of insider threats are Pawns and Turncloaks. 


Pawns refer to normal employees manipulated to perform malicious activities via social engineering or spear phishing, often unintentionally. Most of the time, an employee unknowingly downloads malware to their system or discloses login credentials to a third-party vendor who pretends to be a help desk employee. As a result, this becomes a broader target for cybercriminals to cause significant harm to the organization. 

One such example is Ubiquiti Networks. It became a victim of a spear-phishing attack in which emails from senior executives directed their employees to transfer $40 million to a subordinate bank account. The employees were completely unaware of the spoofed emails, and attackers controlled the bank account. 


A turn cloak refers to an insider who is intentionally stealing sensitive information from an organization. A turn cloak can be a current employee, former employee, or a third-party contractor who has legitimate access to the information and misuses their access for malicious purposes. An employee can turn into a turn cloak for numerous reasons, with financial reasons at the top. Many motives can trigger this behavior, like a sinister selling of sensitive information to foreign government officials or an employee stealing few documents upon resignation.


How to Detect an Insider Plan?

Insider threats often come with some common behaviors, whether digitally or in person. These indicators are used by security architects to monitor, detect, analyze, and prevent potential attacks. 

Common indicators of an insider threat:

Digital Warning indicators:

  • Accessing or downloading vast amounts of data
  • Accessing confidential information not relevant to your job role
  • Accessing data outside behavioral view
  • Using unauthorized storage devices like floppy disks, USB devices
  • Emailing confidential information outside the organization
  • Network crawling

Behavioral Warning Indicators:

  • Multiple attempts to bypass security
  • Violation of corporate policies
  • Discussions on new opportunities or resignation

How to fight Insider Threats: Creating Defense and Response Plan

Defense Plan:

  • Monitor emails, files, and malicious activity on your available data sources
  • Identify where your sensitive information resides
  • Determine who all have access to that sensitive information
  • Eliminate Global Access Group
  • Apply security analytics to alert on any malicious or unsuspected activities
  • Train your employees to implement a security mindset

However, it is equally important to have and execute a response plan to respond to an insider threat.

  • Identify the type of insider threat and take appropriate action
  • Disable the user on detecting a suspicious activity
  • Verify threat accuracy teams
  • Remove any additional rights given to users
  • Re-enable any security measures
  • Execute forensics on data security incident
  • Alert Regulatory agencies if required

The only secret to defending against insider threats is monitoring, analyzing, and triggering alerts on any suspicious activity. 


Insider threats have numerous potential risks associated with them, including financial fraud, installing malware, data corruption, information theft, etc. Therefore, all businesses must counteract all these threats by implementing a threat solution. Furthermore, it is also crucial to make cybersecurity a vital element of your workspace. Undoubtedly, employees are the first line of defense and target for cyberattacks. Therefore, employee cybersecurity awareness training is mandatory for practicing safe online activities. 

KloudLearn offers you a free cybersecurity training program that equips you with the necessary skills required to become a cybersecurity expert. You will get an opportunity to learn under leading practitioners and global experts to provide you with the industry’s best practices and an immersive learning experience. You will get hands-on experience with numerous cybersecurity concepts like network architecture principles, how to prevent vulnerabilities, strategic principles of risk management, and much more. Register Now to build a solid foundation of cybersecurity in your organization and avoid all types of cyberattacks like insider threats. 

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