Majority Of Organizations Unprepared For Insider Attacks

SANS report shows gaps in insider detection and response.

Enterprises today are still on their heels when it comes to preparing for insider attacks. A recent survey conducted by SANS Institute on behalf of SpectorSoft shows that while organizations are gaining awareness of the risks, they still lack visibility and response planning into threats coming from the inside.

"Insiders have access to critical information, understand how the organization is structured, and can bypass security more easily than outsiders. They can therefore be in the best position to cause harm to an organization," wrote Dr. Eric Cole, fellow for SANS Institute and author of the report. "Many organizations are still not creating and implementing insider threat programs and need to aggressively increase their focus to better protect the organization."

According to the survey, which polled over 700 IT practitioners, almost three-quarters of respondents have insider threats on their radars and are most concerned about negligent or malicious employees. A third of organizations even admit they've experienced an insider attack and approximately 34 percent estimate that insider threats have the potential of inflicting more than $1 million in losses.

Nevertheless, almost half of respondents don't even have a clue how much they're spending on protections for insider attacks; another 44 percent are spending less than 10 percent of their IT security budget on insider threat protection.  What's more, according to respondents, just under a third of them report that they have no way to prevent or deter an insider incident or attack.

SANS reports that the primary focus on insiders has been on detection rather than prevention. The survey showed that the most leaned-on tool for detection is an internal audit, followed by network monitoring, centralized log management and SIEM tools. However, in spite of these tools, only about 10 percent of organizations said they could detect an insider attack within an hour.

"Most organizations will suffer an insider compromise and many will be unable to prevent all attacks," writes Cole. "That your organization currently has an insider threat of some sort is a near certainty. Therefore, you have to approach security with the assumption that an insider threat has already compromised you and focus your energy on detection."

One big problem is that even when insider incidents are detected quickly, organizations lack the ability to effectively respond to them. According to the survey, 69 percent of organizations reported having a general IT security incident response plan in place. But more than half of these organizations—35 percent of all respondents—say their plan doesn't incorporate special provisions for insider incidents. Tallying the numbers, this adds up to 66 percent of organizations that either don't have a plan in place at all or don't have one that can account for insider threats.

About the Author(s)

Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.

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