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5 ways to protect against insider data theft

Simple measures to stop staff stealing

Here are the five most common methods insiders use to access network resources and simple measures enterprise IT can take to protect against the implied threats.

While organisations are busy protecting themselves from an external threat of data theft and sabotage, many forget about internal threats. According to the latest Computer Security Institute report, insider threats are up 17 percent and those businesses that fall foul of such theft will find themselves surrounded by hard costs, compliance-related problems, legal fees, productivity loss and, possibly the most costly of all, loss of reputation.

However, as IT and communication systems grow in complexity, so to do the numbers of employees, contractors and managed service providers that have unmonitored access to maintain them.

It should be clear that companies need to monitor insiders as aggressively as they do outsiders. However, policing insiders can prove challenging given the privileged access they require to do their jobs. Here are the five most common methods insiders use to access network resources and simple measures enterprise IT can take to protect against the implied threats.


A lack of central management combined with easy-to-guess static passwords make modems an ideal entry point for insiders with detailed knowledge of a network. Many companies have tried to address this challenge by simply unplugging modems until needed. However, unplugging modems makes it impossible to use them for their intended purpose, namely remotely restoring critical systems in times of emergency or outage.

Given that modems are a necessity, enterprises must extend the same security and identity confirmation measures to modems that they do to other remote-network entry points. Extending corporate two-factor authentication measures to modems or replacing legacy modems with newer, more secure models with embedded multifactor authentication can provide appropriate and cost-effective protection.

Open file transfer

Most organisations use open file transfer to patch network infrastructure. Internal technicians and vendors use this poorly secured, unrestricted access to troubleshoot, apply appropriate fixes and correct problems. However, they also can misuse this freedom to change files, remove critical components or disrupt systems, resulting in non-perational systems, website defacements, data theft and other damaging situations.

A disgruntled or former employee could have the knowledge and motivation to commit such acts. However, more often, an insider threat can be less dramatic but equally troublesome. Even well-intentioned employees can be careless or make inadvertent mistakes. As such, protecting information assets requires you to have control over who can upload and download files, and a clear and easily retrievable record of all changes made to the system and the person who made them.

Traditionally, limiting and monitoring open file transfer required that individual permissions be set on each machine, causing headaches for IT departments. However, new technologies, such as vendor access and control (VAC) systems, can limit access and monitor activities organisation-wide or for specific systems.

NEXT PAGE Steps to take to stop open telnet, SSH ports and server console ports offering insiders access to your network.

  1. Simple measures to stop internal data theft
  2. Steps to take to stop open telnet, SSH ports and Server console ports offering insiders access to your network

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