Aidan Simister May 31st, 2024

Insider Risk Management: Here Are 10 Things You Need to Do 

Insider risk refers to a multifaceted cybersecurity threat that can arise from both intentional and unintentional actions of insiders, including employees, contractors, and business partners. According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, 55% of reported incidents were attributed to employee negligence, with an average annual remediation cost of $7.2 million. While less common, incidents involving malicious insiders and stole credentials are more costly to deal with, with an average annual cost of around $7m. Organizations must take a proactive approach to identify, assess, and mitigate potential threats. 

10 Things You Need to Do To Respond to Insider Risks

Naturally, you can't control what you can't see. Hence, one of the most effective ways to respond to insider risks is to monitor all access to privileged accounts and sensitive data. Below are the 10 most notable ways to prevent insider risks:

1. Develop a Robust Security Policy 

Establishing a robust policy is not just about complying with regulations, but also about empowering employees to respond to potential threats. One effective approach to developing a security policy is by adhering to the ISO 27001 standard. This framework provides a guiding light for organizations to create a tailored security policy that addresses their specific needs and risk profile. A well-crafted security policy should be clear, concise, and accessible to all employees, outlining specific requirements such as password length, character composition, and frequency of change. To remain effective, the policy should be regularly reviewed, updated, and communicated to address evolving threats and new technologies.   

2. Discover & Classify sensitive data

To safeguard against insider threats, it's essential to establish an inventory of both structured and unstructured data. This will provide a clear understanding of the data you possess, enabling you to prioritize the most valuable data. By doing so, you'll gain visibility into the data you're working with, and enable you to implement precise access controls, limiting the exposure of sensitive information. Additionally, having a comprehensive inventory helps with compliance efforts, thus helping you align with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and more.         

3. Monitor User Activity 

User activity monitoring helps to detect suspicious activity by establishing behavioral baselines for each user within an organization. This involves collecting data on typical login times, devices used, locations, and applications accessed regularly. The system then continuously monitors user activity and flags any deviations that may indicate malicious intent or unauthorized activities, such as unusual login times, access to unfamiliar systems, or atypical data transfers. These anomalies are then alerted to security teams for further investigation, enabling swift detection and response to potential threats.

4. Encrypt data & Use Multi-Factor Authentication 

Traditional username and password authentication is no longer sufficient to ensure the security and integrity of sensitive information. This is where two-factor authentication (2FA) comes into play. 2FA adds an additional layer of security by requiring users to provide two forms of identification before granting access to a system or resource. For instance, using 2FA to log in to work accounts requires both a password and a one-time code sent to a mobile device, providing an additional layer of security. Similarly, requiring 2FA for access to critical systems or sensitive data, such as a fingerprint or security token, ensures that only authorized individuals can access the information.

5. Implement the Zero Trust Model 

The Zero Trust security approach stipulates that all entities, including insiders, should be treated as potential threats. This means that trust is not assumed or taken for granted, and instead, must be continuously earned and verified. To achieve this, it's crucial to regularly validate identities and their associated privileges so that we can limit access to sensitive resources to only what's essential, thereby minimizing the risk of insider threats and securing our perimeters.    

6. Conduct Regular Security Awareness Training 

By offering engaging training sessions and reminders that employees can easily digest, they will be more likely to take action. It's essential to raise awareness about what data is considered sensitive, how it can be exploited, and the critical role each team member plays in its protection. Keep training sessions concise and entertaining, aiming to convey as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time. 

7. Use Secure Collaboration Tools

In the modern workplace, effective collaboration is crucial for success, but it also introduces a threat to the security of sensitive data. To mitigate these risks, organizations must make informed decisions about the collaboration and communication tools their employees use. These tools should incorporate robust security features, including encryption to protect data from unauthorized access and leaks, and access controls to limit who can view, edit, or share sensitive information.  

8. Install An Endpoint Detection Solution 

Endpoints, such as computers, laptops, and mobile devices that connect to an organization's network, are critical entry points for insider threats. These endpoints are where employees interact with sensitive data and systems, making them prime targets for insiders seeking to access, steal, or manipulate sensitive information. Protecting endpoints is crucial as they are often the first line of defense against insider threats. Robust endpoint detection solutions, such as DLP (Data Loss Prevention) solutions, continuously monitor endpoints for unusual behavior, including unauthorized access attempts, file modifications, and data transfers. When anomalies are detected, these solutions trigger alerts and responses, including isolating the endpoint, blocking malicious processes, and alerting security teams to take swift action.    

9. Harden Your Onboarding/Offboarding Processes 

To safeguard against internal threats, it's essential to adopt a vigilant approach to hiring and offboarding employees. This begins with a thorough background check for new hires, ensuring they are trustworthy and trained on the organization's data security policies. Similarly, when employees depart, a secure offboarding process is crucial to revoke access rights promptly and prevent them from departing with sensitive data. Additionally, you should monitor the activities of employees suspected of being a security risk, assessing their access to data and limiting it to only what is necessary for their role.

10. Implement Data Loss Prevention Software 

By integrating an advanced data loss prevention (DLP) solution, you can safeguard your data from a multitude of threats, including insider risks, through a comprehensive approach that covers data protection, access controls, and real-time monitoring. This software operates seamlessly behind the scenes, minimizing workflow disruptions and ensuring employee productivity remains unaffected. Additionally, you can customize security policies to suit your organization's unique needs, including blocking specific file operations, capturing data, controlling email domains, restricting external device usage, and preventing unauthorized data uploads to the cloud.


Insiders pose a significant risk to an organization's data, systems, and reputation. Insiders, including employees, contractors, and partners, can intentionally or unintentionally cause harm, whether through malicious actions such as data theft, sabotage, or espionage, or through accidental events like compromised credentials or unauthorized data sharing. The consequences of insider threats can be devastating, as stolen data can be traded on the dark web or directly sold to competitors, potentially causing irreparable damage to an organization's reputation and competitive advantage. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to recognize the potential risks and take proactive measures to mitigate insider threats, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their sensitive data.

Featured image by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

Aidan Simister

Aidan Simister is the CEO of Lepide, a leading provider of data security and compliance solutions. With over two decades of experience in the IT industry, he is recognized for his expertise in cybersecurity and his commitment to helping organizations safeguard their sensitive data.

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