Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Mitigating Inside Threats to U.S. Federal IT Environments

Posted April 17, 2014    BeyondTrust Software

Businessman looking in a computer for virus and hacker

Recent high-profile cases have increased the perceived risks that go along with disclosure and usage of confidential information. One of the most difficult security threats to mitigate is an attack from the inside. When an over-privileged user, such as an unhappy current or former employee, contractor, or consultant, begins navigating your network, how will you know? If you have a strong privilege management program in place, your chances of mitigating the problem can be much higher.

Many federal employees, contractors and consultants have both an understanding of Department or Agency business and operations, combined with access to its assets housing mission-critical data. This creates a dynamic where they are both the organization’s most valuable resource and the greatest threat to its IT security.

Why would an employee betray their organization?

Some of the most common motives that propel an individual to become an intelligence risk are coercion, revenge, ideology, money and exhilaration. A potential intelligence risk is typically an employee dissatisfied at work, under financial pressure, who feels they are under-appreciated. The vast majority of malicious, insider-led breaches occur within 30 days of the employee declaring their resignation. Of course, not all user-based threats are intentional, as data incidents can just as easily result from lack of training, negligence, or simple curiosity.

How can you comprehensively protect your proprietary data from insider threats?

There is no single “silver bullet” solution to comprehensively protect your data from inside threats. However, implementing a Least Privilege policy is a good place to start. This means that end users receive permissions only to the systems, applications and data needed to perform their jobs, based on their role or profile in the organization.

What if users need elevated privileges?

If a user requires elevated privileges, such as root, admin or power user, then they may be granted permissions. However, when this is the case, we recommend implementing solutions that can monitor and audit users when they are operating with elevated permissions. This would include things like I/O logging, screen captures, keystroke logging and session monitoring — all of which ensure accountability, discourage misuse, and provide critical information when misuse does occur. Security teams, as a part every best practice, should audit these user activity logs to flag and prevent misuse — whether that misuse is immediate or gradual, intentional or accidental.

The bottom line: Get proactive.

Data incidents will continue to happen, and the legislation will follow, but Departments & Agencies can be proactive about safeguarding their technology through smart privileged account management. After doing some research on products that fit your Department or Agency needs, utilize free product trials to ensure that the vendor can support your requirements.

For more information, please contact:

BeyondTrust Federal Solutions Group
Tel: 301.337.8112

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