The human element in cybercrime

Issue 4 2021 Information Security

Keeping up with threat intelligence is a must for any security analyst today and the insider threat remains a huge part of any risk analysis. But, sadly, one of the main reasons the insider threat is often overlooked is because there is a lack of communication in terms of intelligence between the human resource department and the risk departments.

Jenny Reid.

Despite organisations believing that they have a safe cyber infrastructure, it is no coincidence that the human factor – long seen as the weakest link in the chain or the first line of defence – has often contributed to some of the most significant data breaches making headlines.

Often the investigations reveal that breaches resulted from lapses by employees who ignored warning signs of a potential breach and vulnerabilities within the system.

How to manage the insider threat?

There are areas where artificial intelligence can be used in conjunction with the human resources department to address risk more proactively. Sadly, in the traditional lifecycle of an employee, there is seldom a risk prevention element to it.

In conjunction with the risk professionals, an insider threat identification programme should be considered. It would include the following elements that will allow a company to understand the integrity and behaviour of a person before employment and regularly during employment, to be proactive in understanding the changing threats.

Identify possible risk behaviour patterns:

o Attempts to bypass security measures.

o Requests for higher-level access.

o Frequent use of equipment/systems outside regular working hours.

o Social media behaviour.

o Use of unauthorised external devices.

o Disgruntlement towards colleagues or employer regarding workplace policies.

o Change in work performance.

Understand what a high-risk user is:

o Monitor passwords.

o Monitor staff movement and activity, online and in person.

o Lifestyle audits.

o Understand employees’ intentions.

Include cyber threats in the hotline education to employees. 67% of tip-offs come from employees.

• Develop an employee screening policy that prevents risk to the organisation:

o Must consider failed applications.

o Must be legally compliant.

o Must have buy-in from the entire executive committee.

o Must be updated regularly to address current risks and consider past experience.

o Must not only be a pre-employment process, it must be ongoing.


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