Security Experts:

Insider Threat Incidents Increasing at Businesses, Warns IC3

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is advising companies to take a look inside as they consider security threats.

According to IC3, a recent review of FBI cyber-investigations revealed victimized businesses suffer significant losses due to cyber-incidents involving disgruntled or former employees. The losses in the incidents ranged from $5,000 to $3 million, with factors such as the value of stolen data to legal fees impacting the cost.

"There has been an increase in computer network exploitation and disruption by disgruntled and/or former employees," the advisory states. "The FBI and DHS assess that disgruntled and former employees pose a significant cyber threat to US businesses due to their authorized access to sensitive information and the networks businesses rely on."

"The theft of proprietary information in many of these incidents was facilitated through the use of cloud storage Web sites, like Dropbox, and personal e-mail accounts," according to the advisory. "In many cases, terminated employees had continued access to the computer networks through the installation of unauthorized remote desktop protocol software. The installation of this software occurred prior to leaving the company."

In addition, the advisory warns, multiple incidents were reported in which disgruntled or former employees attempted to extort their employer for financial gain by modifying and restricting access to company Web sites or disabling content management system functions or launching distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Most often, data theft within organizations is linked to employees and others with legitimate access to systems, networks and sensitive data, said Armond Caglar, senior threat specialist at TSC Advantage. This can be the result of inadvertent behaviors due to human error and a lack of policies or a deliberate breach done maliciously.

"From a hiring perspective, comprehensive background checks and due diligence can help reveal a pre-hire’s connection to any potential competitive intelligence adversaries," he said. "For example, organizations, especially those looking to make an international hire, should analyze the relationships of employees and partners to determine potential risks to the organization’s intellectual assets."

"Additionally, IT and security leaders tend to focus on technology solutions to protect a company’s digital perimeter and data from outsiders, but often overlook essential training and procedures, such as insider threat anomaly detection, that can help spot threats from trusted insiders," he added.

IC3 recommends organizations perform a regular review of employee access and terminate accounts that individuals don't need to perform their daily duties on the job. Likewise, companies should terminate accounts associated with former employees or contractors no longer working there and change administrative passwords to servers and networks following the release of IT personnel.

Other suggestions include not sharing RDP usernames and passwords and preventing employees from downloading unauthorized remote login applications on corporate computers.

"An enterprise can shore up its external defenses and believe it is protected, but all it takes is one employee circumventing the system to cause an issue," said Ryan Kalember, chief product officer at WatchDox.

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