Five quick wins to reduce exposure to insider threats

Q. What is worse than the attacks at Target, Home Depot, Michael’s, Dairy Queen, Sony, etc?
A. A disgruntled insider (think Edward Snowden)

A data breach has serious consequences both directly and indirectly. Lost revenue and a tarnished brand reputation both inflict harm long after incident resolution and post breach clean-up. Still, many organizations don’t take necessary steps to protect themselves from a potentially detrimental breach.

But, the refrain goes, “We don’t have the budget or the manpower or the buy in from senior management. We’re doing the best we can.”

How about going for some quick wins?
Quick wins provide solid risk reduction without major procedural, architectural or technical changes to an environment. Quick wins also provide such substantial and immediate risk reduction against very common attacks that most security-aware organizations prioritize these key controls.

1) Control the use of Administrator privilege
The misuse of administrative privileges is a primary method for attackers to spread inside a target enterprise. Two very common attacker techniques take advantage of uncontrolled administrative privileges. For example, a workstation user running as a privileged user, is fooled by simply surfing to a website hosting attacker content that can automatically exploit browsers. The file or exploit contains executable code that runs on the victim’s machine. Since the victim user’s account has administrative privileges, the attacker can take over the victim’s machine completely and install malware to find administrative passwords and other sensitive data.

2) Limit access to documents to employees based on the need to know
It’s important to limit permissions so employees only have access to the data necessary to perform their jobs. Steps should also be taken to ensure users with access to sensitive or confidential data are trained to recognize which files require more strict protection.

3) Evaluate your security tools – can they detect insider theft?
Whether it’s intentional or inadvertent, would you even know if someone inside your network compromised or leaked sensitive data?

4) Assess security skills of employees, provide training
The actions of people play a critical part in the success or failure of an enterprise. People fulfill important functions at every stage of the business function. Attackers are very conscious of these issues and use them to plan their exploitations by: carefully crafting phishing messages that look like routine and expected traffic to an unwary user; exploiting the gaps or seams between policy and technology; working within the time window of patching or log review; using nominally non-security-critical systems as jump points or bots….

5) Have an incident response plan
How prepared is your information technology (IT) department or administrator to handle security incidents? Many organizations learn how to respond to security incidents only after suffering attacks. By this time, incidents often become much more costly than needed. Proper incident response should be an integral part of your overall security policy and risk mitigation strategy.

A guiding principle of IT Security is “Prevention is ideal but detection is a must.”

Have you reduced your exposure?

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