The YakaBlog

Three Ways to Design a Proactive Insider Threat Program

As an insider threat security leader, your primary responsibility is clear: mitigating internal risks at your organization. Unfortunately, the pathway to achieving that goal is much less simple.

After all, most insider threat programs are created as a reaction to an external threat or compliance standard. Perhaps your organization suffered from a successful internal attack. Or maybe your insider threat program was mandated by government requirements or industry best practices.

This reactive stance puts too much emphasis on the specific reason for your program’s existence, preventing you from effectively identifying and interpreting all of the security signals that actually impact your organization.

Adopting a proactive insider threat strategy

The world’s best insider threat programs are those that take a proactive stance to internal security. This enables program managers to identify and mitigate all possible threats before they turn into attacks.

Taking a proactive stance will help you eliminate insider threats before they become attacks."

Proactive insider threat teams require a clear definition of success, a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative signals, smart investments in tools and training, and a strong internal security culture. In this article, we’ll introduce three fundamental strategies you can use to take a proactive stance in your own work.

Strategy #1: Balance cyber risk and human risk

Insider threats are inherently human concerns. That means your cybersecurity tools will only ever be part of the solution. Effective insider threat programs find ways to balance technical and non-technical indicators to get a clear picture of organizational risk.

If you successfully integrate qualitative, non-technical signals into your strategy, you will build comprehensive and continuous awareness throughout your organization, and you will develop more understanding of the “why” behind certain malicious actions. You will also be able to shift your strategy from detection to deterrence.

Want More Guidance?

Our latest ebook, based on a conversation with a former U.S. intelligence officer, explores all three of these insider threat strategies in greater detail.

Strategy #2: Invest in both tools and training

Security leaders often worry about what tools they should buy to protect their organization, but tools have limitations. They are only effective when they are aligned with a specific objective and operated by properly trained teams.

Before selecting tools for your own insider threat team, start by connecting each decision back to your organization’s larger objectives. Build tools around your program, not the other way around.

Then, invest in training for your general workforce and your specialized insider threat team. When they’re educated about the broader insider threat strategy, your general workforce can be an effective first line of defense. And when insider threat experts are continuously trained on your technology stack, you’ll be able to spot weaknesses and fill skill gaps before a real threat emerges.

Strategy #3: Protect confidentiality at all costs

Insider threat cases involve and impact real people. That’s why it’s critical to treat the people involved (and their information) with utmost care and respect. Moving quickly is important, but moving carefully and securely is even more essential.

If your program exists to protect people, betraying their confidentiality will undermine the very foundation of your insider threat program. Getting it wrong will also erode the confidence of your leadership team and workforce. When you lose that buy-in, you may even lose funding—which leaves your organization more vulnerable to insider threats than ever before.

Design your insider threat strategy with intention

How can you set your program up for success today? Start by creating a clear definition of success. Ensure that your strategy is carefully aligned with your organizational objectives and socialized with all the relevant stakeholders.

Then, work on transitioning from a reactive to a proactive stance. You can start by balancing technical and non-technical indicators, investing in training alongside new technology, and building processes that keep everyone’s data safe.

Ready to make your insider threat program more proactive?

Download our latest eBook for more guidance on these three fundamental strategies.