Insider Risk Program: How To Setup, Benefits & Tips
Insider Threat Prevention

Insider Risk Program: How To Setup, Benefits & Tips

Cyberattacks are an ever-present danger for organizations. However, it’s crucial for security teams to recognize that the threat isn’t limited to external actors. Insider threats, originating from within the organization, are a growing concern. In fact, the frequency of data breaches caused by insider threats has surged by nearly 40% since 2018, now accounting for 60% of all breaches.

Insider risks and threats can be difficult to detect and prevent. This underscores the necessity of an effective incident response plan, which can proactively monitor and intervene in the face of insider threat risks before they materialize.

How an Insider Threat Program Benefits Your Organization

The potential consequences of a data leak or cyberattack are devastating for any company, leading to financial loss and reputational damage. However, an effective insider threat program can help your security team identify and mitigate these threats, providing a reassuring layer of protection.

Early Threat Detection

The success of any cybersecurity response measure depends on early threat detection. An effective incident response plan utilizes employee monitoring solutions to recognize abnormal behavior that is potentially risky to the organization. 

From someone gaining access to critical assets that they shouldn’t to a person accidentally cc’ing a person outside the organization on an email containing sensitive documents, an insider threat can come to fruition in many ways. Detecting these threats early is crucial to stopping them from becoming major issues.

Respond Faster to Insider Threats

Insider threats require a swift, decisive response. By identifying the insider risk early, security teams can respond faster. Using the two examples of the previous section, upon early threat detection, security leaders could immediately block access privileges of a suspicious actor or retain an email before it could be sent externally. A good insider threat software can do this automatically.

Reduce the Costs and Mitigate the Effects of Insider Attack

Malicious insider threats may intend to share trade secrets with competitors, leak financial data or customer info to cybercriminals, or disrupt a company’s everyday workflow. Whatever the point, a successful cyberattack will cost an organization time, money, and potentially its reputation. Even unintentional insider threats can have harmful effects, so having an insider threat program is crucial to avoiding costly security mistakes or damaging attacks.

Better Compliance with Standards, Laws, and Regulations

Today, there are stricter regulations over how organizations use customer data, especially in the European Union (EU). While strict regulation is good for customers, it can be complicated for organizations responsible for ensuring employees have proper security and regulatory training. Staying compliant with standards, laws, and regulations is a company-wide effort. 

While an employee training curriculum is essential to compliance, an effective program can help mediate accidents or oversights that may lead to violations. By improving awareness of insider threats within your organization, you can instill better security programs and implement a better insider threat management program.

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How to Setup an Insider Threat Program

The benefits of an insider threat management program are clear. However, setting one up may be a little less so. We break down the steps here.

1. Perform a Risk Assessment

The first step in implementing any cybersecurity program is understanding where your organization is vulnerable. You can do this by hiring a security agency or pentester or by exploring software options for effective insider risk prevention.

A risk assessment will give you at least a basic understanding of which parts of your organization are the most sensitive and vulnerable and where you need to invest security resources. From important data centers to accounts that aren’t properly secured, a risk assessment gives you a complete understanding of your organization’s security so you can improve on it meaningfully.

2. Get Leadership Buy-In

Any significant organizational investment or change requires leadership buy-in. For large organizations, that may mean the approval of a board or executive team. Smaller ones may just mean buy-in from one or two key stakeholders. Regardless, leadership shouldn’t only mean executives — you need buy-in from team leaders, as well, if you’re going to create a detailed remediation plan and get the organizational buy-in you need to run an effective program to identify potential threats.

3. Create an Insider Threat Response Team

Your organization may already have a cybersecurity team that can quickly become a response team. If not, you must designate security officers who can spearhead any response to insider threats and enforce security protocols. It may be a few members of the engineering or leadership teams, or you may want to hire someone or a few people to head up this effort.

4. Create a Detailed Insider Threat Incident Response Plan

A good insider threat response plan should be repeatable. Your team should know exactly what to do in the event of various insider incident types. Take the time to create detailed security protocols, whether in response to unauthorized access, data leaks or breaches, malware activity, or any other security incidents your organization may experience.

An insider threat program is only as effective as its response efforts, so it’s crucial to ensure that security teams know how to act quickly and don’t have to ask questions or get authorization to protect the organization.

5. Training & Awareness

Employee training is an essential component of any successful program. Since so many insider incidents are unintentional, training employees on proper security practices and protocols is crucial. 

Security is a collective responsibility, and every employee plays a crucial role in maintaining the organization’s security and preventing incidents or compliance violations. Employees become an invaluable asset to the organization’s security by understanding their role and recognizing insider threat indicators.

Moreover, if your organization uses an insider threat solution, it will double as an employee monitoring solution. Employees aren’t always keen on being watched by their employers. As such, it’s vital to be transparent about what the organization monitors and why it’s monitored. Employees shouldn’t feel surveilled — they should understand that only suspicious activity or malicious actions will be flagged.

6. Set Up Confidential Reporting

You’ve probably heard the airport security mantra, “If you see something, say something.” Such is a goal of an insider threat program, too. A key component of employee awareness is giving them ways to report suspicious activity or risky behavior safely. Confidential reporting allows security officers to follow up on potential insider threats quietly, without revealing the source of their information.

7. Implement the Correct Insider Threat Tools

Insider threat software is an important component of a comprehensive security program. It identifies threats and ensures authorized access to corporate systems. Employee monitoring solutions include security tools with important capabilities to recognize insider threat indicators. 

  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools identify when company data may be accidentally sent externally or when there’s a risk of a data breach, intervening automatically to stop data loss before it happens. 
  • User & Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) tools leverage machine learning and AI to learn user habits and work patterns. They flag when an individual suddenly begins acting in an unusual way or accessing systems they don’t need for their job function. 
  • User Activity Monitoring (UAM) tools stay out of employees’ personal lives but provide employees an opportunity to prevent accidental insider threats. 

Together, these tools can identify insider incidents and help stop them in their tracks.

9. Conduct Regular Program Reviews

Companies should grow, evolve, and change, as should your insider threat program. Every organization has security risks, compliance needs, and systems to protect. Make sure to subject your insider threat mitigation program to regular review to ensure it meets your organization’s needs and is robust enough to keep up with your company’s growth. 

The more you review your program and protocols, the better you’ll be able to respond to new and emerging cybersecurity threats. Devoting departmental resources to user activity monitoring and improving current programs will help keep malicious activity at bay and ensure potential risk indicators don’t go unnoticed.


External attackers are far from the only cybersecurity concern for organizations these days. Insider threats are common and are becoming more prevalent every year. Every organization can benefit from building an effective incident response plan before a threat can cause financial or reputational damage.

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How do I run an insider threat program?

Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities to run an insider threat program. Implement user access management, data loss prevention, and user entity behavior analytics tools to detect and prevent insider threats. Regularly review and update your program to ensure it remains effective against evolving cybersecurity risks.

What is the enterprise insider threat program?

The enterprise insider threat program is a comprehensive plan designed to identify and mitigate the potential risks posed by internal actors within an organization. It involves implementing security measures such as user access management, data loss prevention, and user behavior analytics to detect and prevent insider threats. Regular program reviews and updates are essential to ensure ongoing effectiveness against evolving cybersecurity risks.

Why is the insider threat program successful?

The success of an insider threat program lies in its ability to detect and prevent malicious activities from internal actors within an organization. Companies can proactively identify and mitigate potential risks by implementing robust security measures such as user access management, data loss prevention, and user behavior analytics. Regular program reviews and updates are critical to ensuring ongoing effectiveness in the face of evolving cybersecurity threats.

What functions do insider threat programs came to fulfill?

Insider threat programs fulfill several functions, including identifying and mitigating potential risks posed by internal actors, implementing security measures such as user access management and data loss prevention, and proactively detecting and preventing malicious activities within an organization. Regular reviews and updates are essential for ongoing effectiveness against evolving cybersecurity threats.

What is the most common form of insider threat?

The most common insider threat is unauthorized data access or breaches by employees or trusted insiders who misuse their access privileges. These insider threats can result in significant financial and reputational damage to organizations.