Operations

Don’t Ignore Threats From Behind the Firewall

More than half of internal data theft crimes are carried out by low- and mid-level staff.

August 16, 2011
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For decades, community financial institutions have been under constant barrage from unrelenting legions of cyber threats hell-bent on attacking any vulnerability that can be exploited to gain access to sensitive information.

As a result, financial institutions have fortified their network perimeters with sophisticated security controls to repel incoming cyber attacks. These defensive strategies are highly effective at protecting institutions from threats that originate outside the firewall.

However, they offer little protection for the zones within the network that are most susceptible to malicious activity—the internal infrastructure behind the firewall.

Insider threats

Ever since several high-profile research firms began conducting annual data breach and fraud studies in the mid-2000s, the data has indicated that financial institutions are far more likely to experience a significant data breach originating from an internal threat rather than an external source.

Still, many institutions continue to commit a disproportionate amount of resources toward protecting the network from external threats than shielding the internal network from data leakage.

A 2010 study conducted by the Verizon Business RISK team in cooperation with the U.S. Secret Service found that the percentage of breaches stemming from an internal threat doubled between 2008 to 2009.

The vast majority of those incidents were the result of deliberate and malicious activity in which confidential data was either exfiltrated or money was embezzled from the company.

One of the most alarming conclusions the study found is that 85% of these internal attacks weren’t even considered “highly difficult.” More than half of the data theft crimes were carried out by employees in low- and mid-level positions.

When armed with this information, most organizations will probably agree that a “rogue user” who has authentic privileges and on-demand access to their internal systems poses much more of a clear and present danger than an external hacker that’s separated from a system by several layers of complex security.

Because most successful attacks originate behind the firewall, isn’t it common sense to perform periodic testing on these high-risk zones?

Next: Balanced testing

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