Crafting An Effective Insider Threat Incident Response Plan
Insider Threat Prevention

Crafting An Effective Insider Threat Incident Response Plan

Organizations face many threats today, but not all potential threats are from malicious activities outside the organization. Insider threats are just as significant, if not more significant, of a security risk to companies today. Since 2018, there has been a 40% increase in data breaches caused by company insiders, so they now represent most of them.

External attacks may be more visible, but the potential devastation of well-executed insider attacks or employee negligence is far more significant. Threats from employees or third-party vendors with legitimate access to critical assets can lead to financial or reputational harm that is difficult to recover from. This underscores the critical need for an insider threat program to identify and mitigate such incidents before they escalate.

The Importance of Incident Response Plans

An insider risk program should be foundational to your organization’s cybersecurity. Proper cybersecurity protocols to assess, identify, and mitigate insider threats will give your organization an advantage against insider incidents.

Why Organizations Need an Insider Threat Incident Response Plan

Insider incidents can lead to the theft of core company assets like intellectual property, trade secrets, and customer information. An effective incident response plan gives security leaders the framework to stop potential insider threats before they take root and become a significant issue for your organization. An insider threat response plan is crucial to protecting your organization from the negative impacts of a successful insider attack.

Benefits of Having a Well-Defined Incident Response Plan

Building out an effective incident response plan will help your organization’s security in several key ways:

Early threat detection

Reacting to a potential threat after it occurs is not enough. A robust incident response plan empowers your organization to proactively identify abnormal behavior or suspicious activity that could pose a risk. Early detection of malicious insiders or negligent user behavior is the first step in preventing an insider incident from escalating.

Reduce the impact of insider attacks

Whatever the goal of an insider attack, from sharing trade secrets with competitors to leaking customer info to cybercriminals, a strong incident response plan will help avoid the worst outcome. Even unintentional threats can have a significant financial or reputational fallout for organizations, which is why an insider threat program is crucial.

Better compliance

Today’s companies are subject to stricter data regulations and, in many industries, must adhere to various additional standards and laws. Employee training only goes so far. Compliance is everybody’s responsibility, but it can also be complicated to add to somebody’s everyday job. An insider threat detection program has the additional benefit of helping enforce compliance requirements and avoiding costly violations.

Steps for Creating an Insider Threat Incident Response Plan

Knowing you need an insider threat program is the first step. Creating an effective incident response plan is the next one. These are the typical steps.

1. Risk Assessment and Analysis

To run an effective insider threat program, you must know what insider threat indicators to look out for. As such, you must perform a risk assessment and analysis, a critical step in understanding your organization’s vulnerabilities and the potential impact of an insider threat. 

This assessment will help you identify which parts of your organization are most vulnerable and which assets are the most important to protect.

Your organization may have data centers vulnerable to unauthorized access or have too many legitimate access privileges assigned out. 

You may use important third-party programs that don’t require continuous authentication or regular password updating. Employees may access corporate systems on personal devices or public Wi-Fi. Every organization has unique risks, so you must learn how to improve your security meaningfully.

2. Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Every insider incident requires a unique response, but individuals should know their roles and responsibilities when addressing an insider attack. This includes understanding who in the organization will monitor potential insider threats, who they will alert when one is detected, and who will oversee and execute the response. 

You may already have a full security team that can define its roles and responsibilities. Otherwise, you’ll need to determine who will take on these roles and ensure everyone understands their part in the response plan.

3. Incident Handling and Reporting Procedures

Not every potential insider threat requires the full attention of the entire security apparatus. However, you should keep detailed documentation of every incident, even potential insider threats that never amounted to anything. 

By keeping detailed records of incident handling, you’ll have a ledger of reports of strange behavior or suspicious activity that could eventually begin to tell a more important story. Small, isolated, suspicious incidents may not be much, but they must be documented so that if they keep happening, you’ll know something bigger is happening.

4. Incident Escalation Process

While not every potential threat is worth escalating, your organization needs a straightforward procedure and process for when to escalate potential insider threats. The incident escalation process is a set of predefined steps determining when an incident should be escalated to a higher level of authority or management. 

With insider threat software like Teramind, you can set up automated smart alerts on user activity or user access to handle the escalation process for you. Otherwise, you must determine what merits an escalation to leadership and other key stakeholders.

Obvious escalation moments would be when someone gains unauthorized access to critical assets or, with legitimate access rights, shares proprietary information with someone outside the organization. However, there may be several other potential threat indicators for your organization, so take the time to figure out what actions are worth escalating and how security team members should do so.

5. Incident Investigation and Forensic Analysis

One of the best ways to avoid an insider incident from occurring again is by understanding how it happened in the first place. You should plan incident investigation and analysis since it’s an essential element of any insider threat program. Consider it a post-mortem after a threat has been mediated for forensic investigation.

Your incident investigation should include all key stakeholders and trace the insider attack from its origins to the incident response. This will help you understand the risk of insider attacks in the future and what types of insider threats you need to be most cognizant of.

6. Remediation and Recovery Planning

Should you fail to stop any security breaches, a comprehensive insider risk management program will include plans to remediate and recover from the damage. Whether reputational damage or financial, you need to develop an organizational-wide response to shorten recovery time.

On the security side, that means delving into forensic analysis, which involves collecting, preserving, and analyzing digital evidence to reconstruct past events, patch any vulnerabilities, and reassess the future risk of insider threats. For the rest of the organization, it’s a full-court press to restore faith in the company, both with customers and the market. 

For the rest of the organization, it’s a full-court press to restore faith in the company, both with customers and the market.

7. Implementing the Right Technology

This point umbrellas all of the previous. Trusting insider threat detection tools is one of the simplest ways to create an effective monitoring program.

Technology makes it easier to identify insider threat activities and remediate insider attacks. Employee monitoring solutions like Teramind include dedicated insider threat management tools. Insider threat detection software offers advanced tools that work in the background to protect your organization.

With user activity monitoring, you can see how individual user identities use their time and what files, web pages, and data they access. Teramind allows you to monitor more than 15 communication channels to monitor user sessions across various platforms and detect suspicious cybersecurity incidents.

User & Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) enhances user activity monitoring by learning employees’ typical work patterns to identify anomalous or suspicious behavior and catch unauthorized access requests or abuse of access rights.

That way, when anybody begins acting outside everyday employee activities, the system may recognize them as a compromised insider before their actions go too far.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) offers automated protection when someone accidentally or intentionally attempts to exfiltrate data outside the organization. Working together, they can help mitigate all insider threats and ensure privileged access management for the right user roles.

teramind free trial

8. Integration of Technology and Tools

An insider threat detection solution offers assistance in cybersecurity and gives your cybersecurity department more tools to combat various types of insider threats. Technology can monitor and assess employee behavior, access requests, and other activities better than humans can, and it also provides a proactive security approach that strengthens your organization’s security posture.

Technology can stop potential threats in real-time. It can also provide detailed documentation, automatic escalation, and robust forensic activity analysis to strengthen the entire insider risk program over time.

Integrating insider threat technology can save your cybersecurity department time and the organization money while supporting remediation activities. As a source of insider threat prevention, it will help mitigate security risks and the effects of security events.

Key Components of an Insider Threat Incident Response Plan

Keep the standard steps to creating an insider threat incident response plan in mind; once you have one set up, it’s time to execute it. Execution, fortunately, is similar to creating the plan in the first place. You just have to follow through.

Risk Assessment and Identification of Potential Threats

You spent time assessing security risks and preparing cybersecurity measures, so when you implement insider threat detection software or train a team on your insider threat program, make sure you’re monitoring the right things.

Potential risks can emerge in your organization in many ways, whether it’s looking out for negligent insiders, disgruntled employees, or access to critical systems.

Your risk assessment will guide your security team and software in differentiating regular activity from suspicious activity. Insider threat risk assessment should be part of a complete cybersecurity posture led by security officers.

Development of Incident Response Policies and Procedures

Creating an incident handling response and incident response process is a crucial element of an organization’s cybersecurity protocols and something you should do before you start an insider threat program. However, organizations evolve and change over time, so you must regularly revisit your policies and procedures and update them as necessary.

Creation of an Insider Threat Response Team

An insider threat response team maintains, executes, and continuously develops an insider risk program. These leaders should be key stakeholders in the organization’s security, including the head of security, director of security, a team of cybersecurity experts, executives, and other team leaders. This team will bolster your cybersecurity efforts and make any necessary cybersecurity modifications over time. Keeping the organization safe is a continuous process.

Establishing Collaboration and Communication Channels

Awareness of insider threats is crucial to any insider threat management and detection program. While insider threat management software can handle user activity monitoring and behavior analytics, it isn’t a fail-safe solution.

Team leaders and employees must buy into the “if you see something, say something” mantra to improve communication strategies and teach employees to recognize insider threat indicators. Setting up clear communication channels for confidential reporting of suspicious activity or known security violations will help catch potential threats that may go unnoticed.

Training and Awareness Programs for Employees

As reporting security threats is a collaborative responsibility, employees need proper training in security best practices and organizational security protocols and procedures.

They should understand why their activity is being monitored, what they can do to avoid security mistakes, and how they can contribute to the organization’s overall health. Employee education will help them prevent insider threats and catch malicious organizational activities.


Today, insider threats are even more of a cyber threat for organizations than external ones. They become more prevalent and more challenging for security teams every year. 

Creating an insider threat program requires complete organizational buy-in and a thorough review of your existing security and vulnerabilities. Implementing an effective insider threat program will help identify and stop potential threats before they can damage your company’s reputation, finances, or ability to compete.

teramind free trial


What is an insider threat plan?

An insider threat plan is a comprehensive strategy designed to detect, prevent, and respond to threats within an organization. It includes measures such as user activity monitoring, employee training, and clear communication channels to mitigate the risks posed by insiders with malicious intent.

How do you respond to an insider threat?

To respond to an insider threat, organizations should follow their insider threat incident response plan, which includes immediate containment of the threat, investigation to gather evidence, and appropriate disciplinary or legal actions. To ensure a comprehensive and effective response, it is vital to involve the right stakeholders, such as HR, legal, and IT security.

Who is responsible for insider threat?

The responsibility for insider threat lies with the organization as a whole. However, specific stakeholders such as HR, legal, and IT security play a key role in identifying, mitigating, and responding to insider threats.

What might indicate a reportable insider threat?

Indicators of a reportable insider threat may include unusual or unauthorized access to sensitive information, suspicious changes in behavior or work patterns, and evidence of data exfiltration or unauthorized sharing.