Cybersecurity In-Depth

The Edge

How Do I Reduce the Risk of an Insider Threat?

The principle of least level of access gives employees just the privileges they need to do their jobs. Limiting what an employee can do is a core tenet of zero trust.

Question: How can I reduce the risk of an insider threat for my organization?

Ash Devata, general manager, Cisco Zero Trust and Duo Security: Having a framework to provide the least level of access (a core tenet of the best zero-trust models) is a good start to reducing the risk of an insider threat. A lot of organizations give excessive access to employees because it’s the easier thing to do. For example, they may copy access controls from employee to employee. So, when Kelly got hired into the marketing department, he was given a set level of access controls. Then Sam got hired into a similar role and the access controls were copied — but a short time later, Sam moved into a new department, then into a more senior role. Charlie was hired to backfill Sam’s role and was given the same permissions as Sam, because copying the access controls is easier, but certainly not less risky.

Active monitoring is also helpful, but companies need to be cautious in thinking about how they manage false positives and what you're actually monitoring for. If you are actively monitoring, you need to take privacy implications into consideration and the process you'll go through if you do find something wrong. What's more, if you’re blocking things, will it inhibit a business process? For example, if you block SMS via email and don’t realize that a portion of your sales team communicates directly with customers in that manner, you could be inadvertently inhibiting a business process.