Managing the insider risk is extremely complicated

Residential Security Handbook 2022: SMART Living Cyber Security, Residential Estate (Industry)

John Mc Loughlin.

The risk from malicious insiders has long been a priority for CISOs and has now become a top priority for other executives and board members. Employees require access to sensitive information, but heavy-handed approaches using complicated and static rules can frustrate users. This hampers productivity and leads users to search for workarounds that can also put data at risk.

Employees, contractors and partners understandably have concerns about what activity is monitored. They have questions about what data may be in scope or out of scope. More importantly, users may wonder how these monitoring systems may be biased against them and intrude on their personal privacy.

There’s one consistent and prevalent security gap in every digital enterprise in the world. Regardless of the industry, whether it’s financial, healthcare, residential or logistics, the common denominator remains the same: the human element.

A complicated task

Addressing the insider risk is extremely complicated. A recent DTEX report compares two distinct approaches: Insider Risk Management and Insider Threat Surveillance. The approaches share common goals of preventing data loss, detecting insider threats, accelerating incident response and maintaining compliance.

Insider Risk Management (IRM) views the employee as a source of intelligence rather than a subject of surveillance. It effectively flips a model of invasive monitoring to one that anonymises user intelligence and collects only the minimum amount of metadata necessary to build a forensic audit trail, with full respect for an employee’s fundamental right to privacy.

File scanning, email, web, messaging application content capture, keystroke logging and screen recording are not necessary for effective security with a metadata collection model. IRM goes beyond compliance requirements, prioritising employee privacy while still enabling worker productivity.

Insider Threat Surveillance (ITS) technologies have not only employed invasive content inspection, keystroke logging and video capture capabilities, but also often collect more data than necessary for their stated purpose. This creates unnecessary employee privacy issues, as well as significant costs associated with excess data storage and processing.

In some countries it may be illegal to monitor employees (or to use evidence from monitoring) to reprimand or dismiss them unless an Acceptable Use Policy has been well communicated to staff. In countries with well-established data protection laws, organisations must provide information about the processing of personal data, including what type of data is collected, who has access to the data, and under what circumstances monitoring may occur.

Best strategy that delivers results

Businesses need to adapt quickly to changing customer requirements and competitive pressure, and this requires an insider risk solution that takes the best strategies from a variety of approaches.

This could include rules from data loss prevention for known bad behaviour, machine learning,and behaviour analytics based on better data to identify malicious intent, and a privacy-first approach to employee monitoring that protects employees and is used in a proportionate manner.

According to Gartner, surveillance of employee activities is not without risk. Organisations commonly monitor internal communications systems (for example, email or collaboration platforms) and investigate suspected policy violations. But expansion of these activities into a more pervasive inspection of the work life of employees can infringe on employee privacy expectations and rights in the workplace.

Gartner says before organisations explore the use of insider threat tools and services, they must consult legal counsel and human resources leaders, and set boundaries on the capture, storage, sharing, analysis and destruction of data regarding employee activities.

Download the Insider Risk Management and Insider Threat Surveillance e-book (*dtex1) to learn more about the tools available and how workforce cyber intelligence and security can help.

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