Why Insider Threats Need a Zero Trust Approach

Insider threats have become a significant concern for organizations across various industries. With 95% of data breaches caused by human error, according to IBM, it is highly unlikely that an organization that exists today has not suffered from some form of insider attack — caused by carelessness, malicious intent, or a compromised user.

These threats can arise from malicious insiders, negligent employees, or compromised user accounts. The traditional approach to security often focuses on perimeter defense, assuming that once someone is inside the network, they are trusted. However, this approach is no longer sufficient in the face of sophisticated insider threats. A zero-trust approach is needed to effectively mitigate these risks.

Understanding Zero-Trust

The zero trust model is based on the belief that trust is a vulnerability and operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” It assumes that threats exist both outside and inside the network and that no user or system should be inherently trusted, regardless of their location. Instead, identity verification and context-based access controls are required to grant access to resources.

The Zero-Trust Approach to Insider Threats

Managing insider risks requires organizations to adopt a people-centric zero-trust approach to cybersecurity. This approach assumes that breaches will occur and seeks to limit the damage caused by all attackers, internal and external. The zero-trust approach requires that the principle of ‘never trust, and continuously verify’ must be applied to all users —employees, partners, and customers.  Implementing the zero-trust approach can be complex due to disparate legacy systems that store critical data. Integrating these systems and achieving visibility across them is challenging. A comprehensive approach is necessary to avoid creating additional security vulnerabilities.

How does the Zero-Trust approach mitigate insider threats?

Addressing insider threats requires more focus on basic cyber hygiene and security awareness, as well as other aspects of the zero-trust approach, including:

  • Least Privilege Access: Ensuring that users and systems have the minimum level of access necessary to perform their tasks reduces the potential impact of an insider threat.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Verification: Implementing real-time monitoring and analytics tools can help detect anomalous behavior that may indicate an insider threat. This includes monitoring for unusual access patterns, data exfiltration attempts, or other deviations from normal activity.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Requiring more than one authentication method adds an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for insiders to misuse credentials or for compromised accounts to be exploited.
  • Segmentation and Micro-Segmentation: Dividing the network into smaller segments can limit the spread of an insider threat. By controlling the flow of traffic and data between segments, the potential damage can be contained.
  • Behavioral Analytics: Utilizing user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) can help identify insider threats by analyzing patterns and providing insights into potentially malicious or risky behavior.
  • Incident Response and Recovery: Having a robust incident response plan that includes procedures for dealing with insider threats is crucial. This plan should outline steps for containment, eradication, recovery, and post-incident review.

Benefits of a Zero-Trust Approach

The zero-trust approach offers several benefits in mitigating insider threats. By default, it minimizes risk by not trusting any user or system, thus reducing the potential impact of insider threats. Continuous monitoring and verification enable early detection of suspicious activities, allowing for prompt action to be taken. Furthermore, with a focus on least privilege and segmentation, the zero trust model enhances response capabilities, ensuring that the impact of an insider threat can be quickly contained and addressed.

Insider threats are a growing concern for organizations, and traditional security measures are insufficient to protect against them. A zero-trust approach provides a more effective framework for mitigating these threats. Through implementing zero trust principles, organizations can significantly reduce their vulnerability to insider threats and enhance their overall security posture.

More Topic

Want to learn how DataPatrol can help you prevent insider threats?​

Explore our Solutions
DataPatrol provides organizations with out-of-the-box and user-friendly solutions to secure sensitive and confidential data from unauthorized disclosure.
Request a demo today!