Springing the Trap: Snagging Rogue Insiders with Deceptive Tactics

Insider threats pose a serious cybersecurity challenge for organizations across all industries. When trusted employees, contractors, or partners abuse their privileges and access to carry out malicious acts, the damage can be severe. Unlike external attackers, malicious insiders have intimate knowledge that they can exploit to breach critical information or sabotage operations. Detecting illicit activity from an insider is also vastly more difficult than finding perimeter threats. Their legitimate credentials and access allow them to fly under the radar of traditional security controls.

Deception technology has emerged as a new and innovative approach to safeguard against insider threats. Deception platforms set up decoys and traps that attract insider attention by masquerading as real sensitive company resources. When an insider attempts to access the deceptive assets, alerts are generated to cue incident response teams. By providing fake systems and data that appear credible to insiders, deception technology can shine a spotlight on unauthorized insider actions that point to a potential compromise. Evaluating this new form of defensive technology is critical for organizations seeking improved safeguards against the insider threat challenge.

Challenges of Detecting Insider Threats

Malicious insiders often undertake stealthy approaches to unauthorized activity that enable them to fly under the radar. Because they have legitimate access and credentials, insiders don’t need to hack systems and often access sensitive resources as part of their regular job duties. These factors make distinguishing innocent actions from illicit insider activities extremely tricky for security teams.

Additionally, malicious insiders are adept at understanding their organizations from the inside out, as they possess intricate knowledge of systems, data stores, security processes, and potential loopholes. This arms them with the blueprints to undertake surgical, stealthy attacks that easily evade traditional safeguards. They can slowly siphon small amounts of data over time, camouflaging their tracks along the way, or they may lay low for months or years before acting, all while maintaining a flawless job performance.

Many security tools and policies are designed to guard against outside attackers but fall short when applied to insider threats. Firewalls, network monitoring, access controls and other perimeter defenses can be neatly circumvented by insiders since they don’t flag authorized account activity. New approaches are sorely needed to account for the particular challenges posed by the insider threat. Deception technology has risen to fill this critical security gap, providing alerts and visibility where other controls fail blind.

Deception Technology Capabilities

Deception technology platforms provide specially designed traps and decoys that ensnare malicious insider activity. The systems create fake digital assets, including documents, emails, servers, databases, and even entire networks that appear credible to insiders but contain no real production data. When an insider takes the bait and attempts to access these decoys, alerts are triggered automatically.

Well-constructed deception environments emulate the actual IT infrastructure and include decoys that very closely mirror the type of sensitive or regulated data an insider might target. For example, a healthcare company could deploy deceptive personal health information (PHI) records with bogus patient data that is formatted identically to real electronic health records. The goal is to make the lures attractive enough for malicious actors to fully engage.

Advanced deception solutions don’t just generate alerts; they also provide monitoring around deceptions to capture evidence for investigations. Detailed forensics reveal exactly what the insider looked at, downloaded, manipulated, or destroyed, documenting their footsteps throughout the attack sequence. Some solutions will even feed this threat intel back into other security systems like SIEMs to accelerate incident response.

Deception tech therefore delivers immense value to insider threat programs through early detection, detailed visibility, and low false positives. By employing deception, organizations gain an additional line of defense against malicious insiders that traditional tools miss. What sets deception apart is the ability to convert authorized users into threats when they take unprecedented action on deceptive assets.

Use Cases and Deployment Strategies

Implementing deception technology for effective insider threat detection requires planning and strategy. The systems provide maximum value when decoys closely resemble the true confidential data insiders have access to and integrate with other key security tools.

For example, a decoy document labeled “ACME Merger Strategy” will carry more weight if positioned among other documents that a financial analyst would normally review for their job duties. Similarly, bogus engineering diagrams of forthcoming products can trap insider threats within an R&D department when mixed alongside real confidential schemas stored on the network.

Insider threat programs will often conduct assessments to map sensitive data and identify which systems legitimately house this information across the organization. Deception technology can then mirror real assets and place lures accordingly. Since insiders are authorized to access parts of the corporate network, logging into a system alone should not trigger alerts. Instead, alerts should activate only when deceptive content is touched.

Thoughtful deployment strategies maximize the likelihood that insider threats interact with lures and spring deception traps. Network architects may advise on critical network sites for trap insertion while cloud security teams advise on risky SaaS apps prime for deception across business units. Properly integrated, deception solutions reinforce the entire security ecosystem.

Thwarting Insider Threats

Insider threats present an undeniably tricky challenge for organizations to overcome. Malicious insiders operate behind the lines, often able to circumvent traditional perimeter defenses like firewalls, IDS, and access controls. Their intimate knowledge, authorized credentials, and internal vantage point equip insiders to undertake stealthy, tactical strikes against sensitive systems and data.

By proactively baiting malicious actors and generating alerts when they interact with fakes, deception technology delivers a robust new capability for protecting an organization’s crown jewels against compromise. As part of a defense-in-depth approach, deception solutions reinforce the security stack, serving as the innermost layer of protection against lurking insider danger.

Deception technology provides a uniquely potent counter to these threats by laying traps internally behind perimeter defenses. Well-positioned decoys and lures offer tremendous value for insider threat programs seeking early detection, enhanced visibility, and rapid response to unauthorized activity. As the cybersecurity industry wakes up to the rising danger of insider attacks, deception platforms offer a rapidly maturing solution to this menacing threat.

Next Steps

To learn more, take a look at GigaOm’s deception technology Key Criteria and Radar reports. These reports provide a comprehensive overview of the market, outline the criteria you’ll want to consider in a purchase decision, and evaluate how a number of vendors perform against those decision criteria.

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