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Unmasking Insider Threats: Strengthening Security with IGA and PAM

As workplaces become more complex and insider threats become more difficult to detect, a program to mitigate those threats can bolster deterrence by providing an early-detection and response mechanism. Insider threats include, for example, fraud, espionage, unauthorized disclosure of information, information technology (IT) sabotage, brand value erosion, intellectual property theft, and company secrets theft. Organizations can mitigate the insider threat by taking a broader view and use the existing investment in cybersecurity and technology to work toward this mitigation.

Organizational leaders from financial comptroller working with CFO can partner with the CIO/CISOs to have the cybersecurity program, business processes, critical assets inventory and controls work as a unified program that help assure the critical business applications , systems and data is protected against any insider threat. Whether malicious or unintentional, they pose a significant risk to an organization's security and can result in data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. Identifying insider threat indicators is crucial, and this is where Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions come to the rescue.

Unmasking Insider Threats: Strengthening Security with IGA and PAM

Understanding Insider Threats

While external threats are often easier to detect and prevent, insider threats can be more difficult to identify and mitigate. Understanding the differences between these two types of threats is crucial to developing effective security strategies that protect organizations from harm. Insider threats can take various forms, making them challenging to detect. They may involve current or former employees, contractors, or business partners. Here are some common insider threat indicators:

  1. Unauthorized Access: Insiders may abuse their legitimate access to systems, applications, or data to gain unauthorized privileges or access sensitive information.

  2. Data Exfiltration: Employees might siphon off sensitive data, either to sell it or for personal gain, posing a significant risk to an organization's data integrity.

  3. Social Engineering: Insiders may manipulate colleagues or subordinates into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that compromise security.

  4. Careless Behavior: Accidental actions, such as sending confidential information to the wrong recipient or falling victim to phishing attacks, can also lead to security incidents.

  5. Excessive or Unusual overtime Patterns: An employee or contractor suddenly wanting to work repeatedly afterhours or their access to system is outside of their normal patterns.

  6. Disgruntled Employee: General disregards to the policies, negative outlook and interactions with employees, their managers and ignoring warnings.

  7. Repeated Violation Policies: A bigger red flag for employees who have administrative access to organization system and their regularly breaking of rules, ignoring performance improvement plans (PIPs).

  8. Interests Beyond Job Duties: Expressing interest into sensitive areas (restricted places, access controlled data and more) that are not directly associated with their routing job duties.

  9. Unusual Volume of Prints and Data Moves: Large volume of information printing and/or large volume of data download and move in USB drives or sending emails outside organizational emails

Type of Insiders

On a broader view, the insider threat generators can be divided into following categories:

1. Intentional Insiders:

  • Employee/contractor/3rd party user who has access has harmful intent to deliberately breach security protocols.

  • Motivated by financial gain, or intent to tarnish organization reputation.

  • This includes exposing sensitive information, selling company confidential information on dark net, exposing or selling sensitive data or simply to harm the organization in anyways.

2. Careless Insiders:

  • Users who compromise security through social engineering, fishing scams or outright being careless that result in malicious actor gaining access.

  • Mostly seen because of organization not having training of cybersecurity hygine and awareness or users not inadequately trained.

  • Often the target of cybercriminals, hackers.

3. Compromised Insiders:

  • Users who are compromised, sold, planted by external parties with aim to gain insider access.

  • Users with higher level access and having other outside the organization social factors are prime target for cybercriminals to carry their malicious agenda. Cybercriminals or hackers may manipulate or coerce employees to assist in attacks.

How IGA Helps

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) plays a vital role in uncovering and mitigating the insider threats. Here are six IGA features that every organization needs that can help with mitigating the insider threats.

  1. Automated User Provisioning and De-provisioning: This feature enables companies to automate the process of creating user accounts and assigning access rights based on predefined policies. This helps reduce the risk of human error and ensures that users have the appropriate level of access. Equally important is to remove a user’s access on their departure or ability to remove access on emergency basis that help reduce the risk.

  2. Role-Based Access Control: This feature enables companies to define roles based on job functions and assign access rights accordingly. This helps ensure that users have access only to the resources they need to perform their job functions.

  3. Access Certification: This feature enables companies to automate the process of reviewing user access rights and certifying that they are appropriate. This helps ensure that users have only the necessary level of access.

  4. Password Management: This feature enables companies to enforce password policies and automate the process of resetting passwords. This helps reduce the risk of weak passwords and ensures that users have secure passwords.

  5. Reporting and Analytics: This feature enables companies to generate reports on user activity and identify potential security risks. This helps organizations stay ahead of potential threats and take proactive measures to mitigate them.

  6. Policy Enforcement: IGA solutions enforce security policies, ensuring that users adhere to best practices and compliance requirements.

By leveraging these IGA features appropriately in your organization’s identity strategies and programs, you can mitigate identity-related access risks within your business. IGA is no longer an option but a necessity in today's cyber threat landscape. These essential IGA components provide the foundation for robust enterprise security, protecting businesses from data breaches, insider threats, and regulatory non-compliance while promoting trust and resilience in an ever-evolving digital world.

How PAM Helps

Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions are equally essential in guarding against insider threats:

  1. Elevated Access Control: PAM solutions, along with strong policies, restricts access to privileged accounts, provide session monitoring and recording making it challenging for insiders to misuse privileged accounts that could cause a lot of harm.

  2. Just-In-Time Access: PAM solutions offer ability to elevate access only when necessary vs. have static privileged access. This minimizes the exposure of sensitive resources and can significantly reduce insider threat, misuse of access and better enforcement of mitigating controls.

  3. Password Management: PAM, or newer IGA solutions, enforces strong password policies, offers secure password storage, password sync and facilitates password rotation, reducing the risk of compromised credentials.

  4. Password vaulting: PAM solution allow vaulting of password, which prevents the privileged users from knowing the actual passwords to any of the organization’s key assets, systems and applications. This prevents a users gaining access to any critical systems unless they are authorized and approved for elevated access.

  5. Workflows for “Break Glass”: PAM solutions allow robust auditing by way of workflows that require someone approving access after reviewing the valid business justification in case of emergency.

  6. Auditing and Session Recording: PAM solutions have robust reporting, analytics and access auditing capabilities. This combined with ability to capture, records and replay of all sessions involving privileged accounts access to managed assets results in a comprehensive audit trail.

Collaboration between IGA and PAM

To combat insider threats effectively, organizations must integrate IGA and PAM solutions. The true value and benefits of both identity governance and privilege access management could be achieved by keeping privilege access as an integral use case of a successful IGA program. Doing so allows organizations to address risk containment and mitigation that has impact to the entire organization’s key critical assets in combating insider threat. Today’s modern IGA solutions provide relative ease of integrating commercial privilege access management (PAM) solutions, and also have ability to integrate with custom solution.

  1. Unified Identity Management: By integrating IGA and PAM, organizations can ensure that privileged accounts are part of the identity governance framework, reducing the risk of insider misuse.

  2. Know Your Users: IGA solutions allow inventory and unified centralized repository of key applications, systems, users including privileged users

  3. Access Review and Removal: Combining IGA's access certification with PAM's session monitoring helps in identifying unauthorized or suspicious behavior promptly. Avoid and reduce insider threat by timely removal of a user’s access on termination or in case of emergency

  4. Incident Response and Mitigation: The collaboration between IGA and PAM ensures that, in case of a security incident, organizations can swiftly revoke access and take corrective measures that mitigate the risk.

Insider threats pose a significant challenge in the contemporary cybersecurity landscape. Recognizing and comprehending these threats, whether they are deliberate or inadvertent, are paramount for ensuring effective data protection and organizational security. The integration of Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions equips organizations with indispensable tools to identify, prevent, and mitigate insider threats, fortifying their defenses against this continually evolving challenge. By conducting an inventory of critical assets, user types, and systems, while taking into consideration the associated risks, organizations can implement a comprehensive solution that leverages the capabilities of both IGA and PAM.

This strategic approach empowers organizations to safeguard sensitive data and assets, preserve their reputation, and diminish the likelihood of reputational or financial losses. In today's interconnected digital landscape, addressing insider threats is not solely a cybersecurity necessity but an integral component of organizational security. A well-balanced program that integrates risk management, process automation, and efficient tool utilization into its planning ensures a harmonious equilibrium between business priorities without compromising security.

Insider threat prevention program

Every organization should also consider that to reduce insider threats, comprehensive control definition and control mitigation strategies are equally important alongside Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Identity Governance and Administration (IGA). These controls provide a proactive means of identifying and addressing unusual or unauthorized activities within an organization. Control definitions establish clear parameters for acceptable user behavior, ensuring that deviations are promptly detected. Mitigation mechanisms not only detect suspicious actions but also trigger immediate responses, such as revoking access or launching investigations, helping thwart insider threats in their early stages.

This layered approach, encompassing PAM, IGA, and control measures, fortifies an organization's security posture by effectively preventing, detecting, and mitigating insider threats, ultimately reducing the risk of data breaches, financial losses, and reputational harm.

How CredenceIA can help Organizations Unmasking Insider Threats and allow Strengthening Security with IGA and PAM?

CredenceIA offers comprehensive cybersecurity planning, assessment, implementation, and managed services solutions to help organizations balance efficiency and effectiveness in managing their existing security initiatives. Our team have helped numerous clients with strategy, planning and executing of programs that allow organizations with unmasking Insider Threats and layout a roadmap that allow Strengthening Security with effective planning and execution of IAM, IGA and PAM initiatives.

CredenceIA Consulting’s team is dedicated to helping organizations reduce their risk of attack, streamline regulatory certification and compliance, improve operational efficiencies , improve access governance and increase end user engagement with customized training. Selecting the right IGA solution for ensuring appropriate access is a crucial step in mitigating risk and improving the overall security posture of your organization. Don’t wait until you are reacting to a security incident. CredenceIA Consulting’s Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions can help lay the foundation for a solid Identity and Access Management program in your organization. Our experienced team helps CISOs with making business case for modern IAM, IGA programs, stay compliant, provide foundation for effective program planning from requirements to organizational change management.

By partnering with CredenceIA, our clients get personalized attention, agility, cost-effective solutions, and deep expertise. Your organization's security is not a one-size-fits-all matter, and neither should your service provider be. Contact us today to experience the CredenceIA difference and to discuss how our expert advisors can help your organizations to make the business case for transitioning from legacy IGA systems.

Note: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. For specific cybersecurity guidance and implementation, consult with a qualified cybersecurity consultant at CredenceIA Consulting.

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