Chapter 16. On Insider Threat

This chapter is about the problem of collecting and analyzing data when dealing with insider threat. Insider threat involves attacks coming from a member of an organization. When planning and executing attacks, insiders can take advantage of physical location, trust, and better knowledge of the organization. Where an outsider will blindly search within a network to find valuable targets, the insider will know (and possibly have created) the highest-value information. Where an outsider relies on rainbow tables and exploits, the insider can charm other users out of passwords or use common admin tools she needs as part of her job. Where the outsider’s behavior is obviously aberrant, the insider can hide it, or, if caught, explain it away.

For a network security analyst, insider threat work should focus on collecting and synthesizing data, rather than detection. Insider threat investigations begin and end with people—cues from inside the organization that someone is at risk, and interviews with the insiders at the end. The network security team should expect to support other investigators by providing and analyzing data that forms a part of a larger picture.

Insider threat detection is hard; it involves a low-frequency, high-threat event that has a significant and damaging risk of blowback. Many of the biggest cues about insider threat involve indicia that someone is isolated or on his way out of the job—problems at work, antagonistic relationships with ...

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