How to Detect and Prevent Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Lynn Martelli
Lynn Martelli

In the world of business, you have to spend the majority of your time online, and being online means you may have encountered some form of cybersecurity breach. It might arise out of your business website, your becoming victimized on your personal or work computer, or your social media account getting hacked. It is at this instance that cybercrime affected millions of internet users worldwide in one way or another.

Reportedly, about 22% of cybersecurity incidents were due to the outcomes of internal threats, especially involving third and fourth party vendors and suppliers. However, firms often neglect the considerable risks of these online threats, although they could result in critical data breaches.

Internal cyber security threats are mainly posed by people who work within an organization. They can either be your existing employees, former employees, external vendors, or contractors. Notably, anyone with access to the devices or the data of the company may have vulnerabilities. It is the kind of data breach involving the internal attacker who accesses the key data of the company with malicious intent. The attackers come in many forms, as they can include both existing and former employees. And this leads to the growing importance of third party risk management approaches and strategies to ensure safeguarding companies against cybercrime risks.

About Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Internal cybersecurity breaches happen whenever an insider, such as a contractor, employee, or business partner, causes harm or infiltration to the company’s information systems. Such breaches arise out of malicious intent, compromised credentials, and even negligence. Knowledge about internal threats remains critical to developing effective detection and prevention approaches and strategies. Reportedly, around 60% of internal security threats are mainly due to human error that leads to significant data breaches and leading cyber security threats.

Types of Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Internal cyber security threats come in different types with different features and consequences. By identifying these types, one can say that it is possible to adjust the measures with vendor risk assessment to combat threats more effectively for an organization.

  • Malicious Insider Attacks: These are a type of insider threat in which the people inside the organization deliberately engage in criminal activities such as data embezzlement, sharing damaging viruses, or sabotaging organizational processes. The motivation may be financial, vengeful, or ideological, given by intentional insiders.
  • Negligent Insider Actions: Insider actions often cause serious security issues, either through employees’ negligent handling of data, which makes them vulnerable to phishing, or through their inability to adhere to proper security procedures. Consequently, even the best employees open new doors of vulnerabilities, which are a result of carelessness.
  • Compromised Credentials: In this case, Social Engineers gain privileges by getting passwords and usernames from an insider, who opens the doors for outside attackers to take advantage of their purposes. This results in a data breach of the organization’s secured data and structures, and the intruder may be left unnoticed for long.
  • Data Theft: Employees who have the organizational right to access information may exploit this right to earn a buck, benefit another company, or broadcast information to the public domain. Information that can be stolen can be customers’ details, fiscal records, or business secrets.
  • Sabotage: Some insiders may deliberately harm the organization and its framework by damaging organizational property, erasing organizational data, or interrupting the business’s operation. Sabotage causes much downtime and subsequent recovery time.
  • Policy Violations: Subordinates may not adhere to the security policies and procedures laid down in the letter or may even negligently create holes that may lead to some breaches. Policy violations are any unauthorized act, such as the use of wrong passwords, the creation of unauthorized software, or failure to encrypt data as required.
  • Espionage: They might be headhunted by other outside organizations, including competitors, to provide organizational intelligence. In any espionage, the attacker may be involved in social engineering attacks and stealthily acquiring confidential information.

Identifying Indicators of Internal Breaches

This is why it is crucial to detect internal cybersecurity threats as early as possible. Agencies must be careful in identifying signs that may be associated with a breach likely to happen.

Unusual Network Activity

Abnormal network usage, different traffic flow patterns, or sudden data transfer can be signs of internal threat. Monitoring tools allow real-time analysis of network traffic, and such occurrences can be easily detected here.

Unauthorized Access Attempts

System violations or other attempts, possibly from high-privilege accounts, often indicate compromised identities or insider threats. Certain accounts may always get hacked, so to minimize the threat, multi-factor authentication, or MFA, should be enforced.

Changes in Employee Behavior

This is because there are always new things happening in an organization, and employees are bound to be involved in matters that are strange to them, which could be a sign that they are involved in wrongdoing. Such issues can be identified by auditing, for example, and by using behavioral analysis on a frequent basis.

Data Exfiltration

For example, if a large volume of data is being copied or transmitted to other locations outside the organization’s network, there is a genuine possibility of data exfiltration. Commercial DLP tools may be used to log and prevent the transmission of information.

Implementing Robust Access Controls

Security measures play a critical role in regulating the use of resources, in this case, handling and exposure of sensitive data. RBAC means only the data and information should be accessible according to the position of the employees they are working on. Also, there is a need to prevent the exposure of data by adopting the least privilege principles.

Employee Training and Awareness

There is a strong correlation between people and organizational internal breaches. This indicates that various types of training programs, including cyber security, can improve awareness of phishing scams and other types of threats and appreciation of the need to safeguard confidential information. Consequently, raising the level of compromise awareness would greatly minimize the probability of negligent actions on the part of insiders.

Monitoring and Logging

Continuous monitoring and logging of network activity, user actions, and access attempts are critical for detecting and responding to internal breaches. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems can aggregate and analyze logs in real time, providing alerts for suspicious activities.

Conducting Regular Audits

Security audits can also detect areas of insecurity and confirm security compliance periodically. They should involve examining access control, assessing the security measures implemented, and identifying possible vulnerabilities.

Preventing Internal Cybersecurity Breaches

Effective prevention of internal cybersecurity breaches requires a robust approach combining technology, strict policies, and education. Addressing possible risks like a third and fourth party risk can help build a robust culture of security awareness, which will help companies minimize the risk of insider threats and safeguard their valuable data assets.

  • Implement the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP): Limit employees’ access to systems and information to those relevant to their positions. It is advisable to check and modify access rights frequently so that there is a limited chance of hacking.
  • Regular Security Training: Organise regular training for the employees on awareness of Cybersecurity, phishing, and data protection. Training should be informal and designed according to the position of an employee as it will be more relevant in such a case.
  • Enforce Strong Password Policies: Make it mandatory that employees are to use the most secure passwords and the passwords should be altered frequently. Use MFA since it strengthens the protective measures in the networks. Suggest to the employees to use password management tools so that they can employ a good password.
  • Conduct Background Checks: To reduce the chances of hiring insiders, conduct proper background verifications of the new employees and contractors you plan to work with. If employees transfer, revise their access privileges to reflect their new positions or departments.
  • Establish a Clear Incident Response Plan: An incident response plan should be formulated and shared with employees so that they are well-informed about what to do in the event of a security breach. The plan should also outline isolation, elimination, restoration, and public relations steps. Plan for the possibility and amend the plan from time to time because of new threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Monitor for Insider Threats: Other aspects, such as behavioral and access patterns, should be monitored using specialized software to detect insider threats. Common application software includes User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA), which can identify anomalous activity that is considered suspicious.
  • Encrypt Sensitive Data: Secure the data by applying methods that will secure it when it is at rest and when it is being transferred from one location to another. Install encryption and make sure that the encryption system used is well fortified and updated periodically to overcome all arising threats.
  • Regularly Update and Patch Systems: Ensure the software and systems installed are updated with the latest security patches. Older software is vulnerable to internal threats. Continuously update and manage your patches using an automatic system to prevent vulnerabilities from becoming an issue.
  • Conduct Periodic Risk Assessments: Conduct periodic evaluations of the organization’s security status to determine possible threats or vulnerabilities. The results should be applied to change security policies and procedures as necessary.
  • Implement Physical Security Measures: Control access to specific areas that threaten the physical security of organizational sensitive information. Use security cameras, electronic access control, and storage protection systems to contain and protect tangible inventory.


Protecting an organization and its networks against internal threats is one of the most demanding yet crucial jobs. It demands addressing a broad spectrum of an organization’s security measures based on highly effective access control, personnel awareness, and sophisticated monitoring tools. As crucial is the mitigation of third party and fourth party risks so that none of the external business associates compromise the security of the organization’s assets and resources.

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