What is an Insider Threat in Cyber Security?

Insider threats are cybersecurity risks that originate from authorized users, employees, contractors, and business partners who, intentionally or accidentally, misuse their legitimate access or have their accounts hijacked by cybercriminals. An internal threat is a security risk that originates within the target organization. This is usually a current or former employee or business partner who has access to sensitive information or privileged accounts within an organization's network and misuses this access. An internal threat is a type of cyber attack that comes from someone who works for an organization or has authorized access to its networks or systems. Internal threats can be intentional, unintentional, or malicious.

They are more common in certain sectors such as healthcare, the financial sector, and government institutions, but they can compromise the information security of any company. It could be a malicious informant who has accepted cash in exchange for trade secrets, a negligent user who sends a bank transfer to a fraudulent bank account after receiving a forged email from an “executive”, or a compromised informant whose credentials are stolen and used by attackers to leak and sell their patients' personally identifiable information (PII). Traditional security measures tend to focus on external threats and are not always able to identify an internal threat that emanates from within the organization. Accidental and unintentional internal threats occur because of human error and people making mistakes that cause data leaks, security attacks, or the theft of credentials. The Internal Threats Project (S&T) of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate is developing a research program to vigorously reduce the elements of this problem.

In addition, malicious intruders can avoid detection more easily if they are familiar with an organization's security measures. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines an internal threat as the threat that a person with privileged information uses their authorized access, intentionally or unintentionally, to damage the department's mission, resources, personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks or systems. Insider threats can be prevented by constantly monitoring user activity, obtaining real-time information about network activity and taking immediate action when a security incident occurs. For the latest information on S&T Cybersecurity, visit the S&T Cybersecurity news, publications, videos and events pages. A collusive threat is a type of malicious internal threat in which one or more people facing an internal threat collaborate with an external partner to endanger their organization.

Imperva recognizes that analyzing user behavior is key to protecting against internal threats but it's not enough. Collusive insider threats often involve a cybercriminal hiring an employee to steal intellectual property on their behalf for economic gain. An internal cybersecurity threat generally refers to a person using their authorized access to an organization's data and resources to harm a company's equipment, information, networks, and systems. An internal threat is the possibility that someone with privileged information will use their authorized access or knowledge of an organization to harm it. An internal threat is defined as the threat that an employee or contractor will use their authorized access knowingly or unknowingly to harm the security of the United States.

Jacquelyn Hamling
Jacquelyn Hamling

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