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Insider Threat Indicators in Your Organization

which scenario might indicate a reportable insider threat

Table of Contents

Contrary to what you might think, insider threats are often more challenging to detect and manage than external threats because of their source within the organization itself.

Knowing and identifying insider threat indicators early is crucial for protecting your organization’s sensitive information and assets. Let’s explore some key insider threat indicators you can look out for so you can catch them before they escalate.

Understanding Insider Threats

What Are Insider Threats?

Insider threats come from people within the organization—employees, contractors, or business partners—who have access to sensitive information and systems. These individuals can misuse their access to steal data, sabotage systems, or cause other types of harm, intentionally or accidentally.

how to prevent insider threat

With or without intent, insider threats can significantly impact an organization by causing financial losses, damaging its reputation, or even leading to legal repercussions. There is a spectrum of insider threats, which include intentional actions (like data theft or sabotage) or accidental breaches due to negligence or lack of awareness (like not setting up 2-factor Authentication and risking a data breach).

The damage from insider threats can be extensive, affecting not just the financial bottom line but also organizational trust and integrity.

Types of Insider Threats

We touched a little bit on intent, but let’s explore the different types of insiders a little more extensively. There are 3 basic types of insider threats:

Malicious Insiders

These are individuals within the organization who intentionally cause harm. Their actions can severely jeopardize the organization’s operations and security.

Malicious insiders typically have a motive and the means to exploit their access to sensitive information. They may steal data, install malware, or otherwise sabotage organizational systems.

Their motivations can range from financial gain to personal vendettas, or even ideological disagreements with the organization. This could be a disgruntled employee who wants to sell trade secrets to competitors or intentionally corrupt critical data.

Negligent Insiders

More often, we see insider threats come not from malice but from carelessness or ignorance. Nonetheless, this can be just as damaging.

Negligent insiders may unintentionally cause security incidents through careless behavior or a lack of proper security awareness. This could include falling for a phishing scam, misconfiguring security settings, or leaving sensitive information unprotected.

This is why regular training and strict security policies are crucial in reducing these types of incidents. Many risks can be mitigated simply through education; more specifically, ensuring that all employees are aware of the security protocols and understand the importance of following them.

which scenario might indicate a reportable insider threat


Sometimes, the threat doesn’t originate from legitimate insiders but from those who pose as one.

Infiltrators are external entities that gain access to an organization’s resources to conduct espionage or theft. They can be particularly challenging to detect because they often have legitimate credentials that give them access to sensitive information.

This is where organizations need to explore more robust screening processes for new hires and continuously monitor of all access to sensitive data and systems. This can be extremely challenging to detect, which is why simply having the awareness that infiltrators may exist can be a good first step to more intentional hiring procedures.

Key Insider Threat Indicators

Now that you know how to identify the signs of insider threats, let’s talk about how to monitor specific behaviors and access patterns to help pinpoint potential threats before they escalate. In other words, which scenario might indicate a reportable insider threat?

Here are some insider threat indicators watch for:

Unusual Access Patterns

Unusual access patterns could include accessing sensitive data at odd hours or accessing information that’s irrelevant to the employee’s role.

Look for employees accessing sensitive information during non-business hours, repeated access to irrelevant data, or unusual patterns that deviate from their normal job functions.

Implementing advanced monitoring tools that use algorithms to detect anomalies in access patterns can help alert security personnel to unusual activities, allowing for immediate investigation.

Behavioral Red Flags

Changes in behavior can also provide early warnings of insider threats. These red flags might not always indicate malicious intent, but they should warrant closer attention.

Pay attention to sudden lifestyle changes from your employees that seem to be unexplained by known factors, frequent complaints about dissatisfaction with the job, or a newfound interest in areas outside their job responsibilities.

It’s important to approach such employees carefully and constructively. HR should engage with them through supportive interventions to understand their concerns while assessing any potential risk they might pose.

Security Bypass Attempts

Attempts to bypass security measures are serious red flags, indicating that someone may be trying to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or systems.

You may find this out through team members sharing passwords with others, attempting to disable security software, or using unauthorized devices to access the network.

Regular security audits and real-time monitoring can help in detecting and preventing these activities.

Policy Violations

Your team should have regular monitoring and auditing of employee actions are necessary to ensure adherence to organizational policies. Automated systems can help track and report violations efficiently.

Policy violations, while sometimes minor, can be indicative of more significant risks if they occur frequently or in sensitive contexts.

How to Prevent Insider Threats: Proactive Measures

The next question many want to know after knowing how to identify insider threats is how to prevent insider threats in cyber security.

Implement Advanced Monitoring Tools

These tools are essential for detecting insider threat indicators, as they can provide the early warning signs needed to prevent security breaches.

insider threat indicators

Qohash’s Qostodian platform offers risk profiling, real-time insights, sensor management, and actionable alerts. It continuously monitors individual data elements across various sources 24/7 to see how employees are interacting with your data. 

  • Quantification of risk: Information security teams need proactive indicators and benchmarks to measure and watch risk as it evolves. 
  • Data element tracking: Looking at file activity, as 99% of the tools on the market do, is insufficient. One file could have 1000s of data elements. A true assessment of risk requires visibility into the data in the file.
  • A historical record of data movement between employees: When an incident occurs, time is of the essence. Data element tracking enables a historical record of the movement of data between employees, eliminating the need for manual investigations.
  • An intelligence dashboard that surfaces actionable intel: Having a centralized view of quantified risk across the business is critical.

Ensure these tools are seamlessly integrated with existing security systems for comprehensive monitoring. This integration allows for a unified security posture that can more effectively respond to potential threats by correlating data from multiple sources.

Strengthening Policies and Procedures

Robust policies and procedures form the backbone of effective insider threat prevention. They ensure that employees understand their roles in maintaining security and provide a basis for enforcement actions.

You should be updating your security policies regularly to reflect the evolving nature of insider threats and incorporate new technologies and methodologies for dealing with them. This includes revising access controls and response strategies to ensure they remain effective.

You should also implement strict access controls based on the principle of least privilege, where employees only have access to the information necessary to perform their job functions. This minimizes the potential damage from both malicious actions and accidental breaches.

how to prevent insider threats in cyber security

Training and Awareness Programs

You should also conduct regular security training sessions that cover topics such as recognizing insider threat indicators, the importance of following company policies, and the procedures for reporting suspicious activity.

Foster a culture of security where employees feel responsible for their organization’s security and feel encouraged to report any suspicious activities without fear of reprisal.

Open communication, non-punitive responses to self-reported incidents, and continuously reinforcing security best practices are all great ways to make your team feel more confident reporting potential threats.

Monitor Employee Interactions with Qohash

Organizations need constant visibility and control over insider activities to adopt a proactive stance in safeguarding against threats – that’s where Qohash comes in.

Qostodian, our data security posture management tool, knows how to prevent insider threats by looking at user behavior to detect sensitive data elements and risk, non-compliant behavior, oftentimes before it’s detectable from a human eye. With a one-time fee, it monitors insider threat indicators so your team can feel safe and secure.

Book a demo today to prevent insider threats and keep your organization secure!

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