While most security teams are focused on preventing malicious outsider attacks, recent data suggests that close to 30 percent of confirmed breaches today involve insiders.

Today’s increasingly complex networks across physical, information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems make it difficult for security teams to detect and prevent insider threats. This is compounded by the proliferation of data, devices, applications, and users accessing networked resources.

Rising insider malicious attacks threat

As the threat landscape evolves rapidly, CISOs need to step up their game

According to the 2017 U.S. State of Cybercrime Survey, 50 percent of organisations experience at least one malicious insider incident per year. And the Verizon 2018 Data Breach Report found that close to 30 percent of confirmed breaches today involve insiders. In August 2018, a tragic crash involving a Seattle airplane stolen by an employee raised awareness for the need for physical insider threat awareness (as well as more psychological screening before employment).

As the threat landscape evolves rapidly, CISOs need to step up their game, says Aamir Ghaffar, Director of Solutions Engineering at AlertEnterprise. They should implement security controls that protect their company’s people, physical assets, data, intellectual property, and reputation both inside and out. And they need to do it while simultaneously satisfying industry compliance requirements. In response to our questions, Aamir Ghaffar offered some additional insights on the timely topic of insider threats.



Q: We are hearing discussion about the emergence of cyber-physical security systems. What are they and how do they help organisations address insider threats?

Threats now originate not only in the physical space but also in cyber environments

Ghaffar: The concept of convergence has evolved in response to risk and the overall threat landscape. Threats now originate not only in the physical space but also in cyber environments – this is what is commonly referred to as blended risk. These blended risks require a converged approach and a converged view of security as a whole; connecting data, building new capabilities and gaining new insights to allow security teams to better defend against attacks.



Q: How are organisations responding?

Ghaffar: They are shifting towards centralisation – from the security operations center all the way to the executive level, where one C-Suite executive manages all security across physical, IT and OT domains. According to Gartner by 2023, 75% of organisations will restructure risk and security governance to address new cyber-physical systems (CPS) and converged IT, OT, Internet of Things (IoT) and physical security needs, which is an increase from fewer than 15% today.



Q: How does the shift impact insider threats?

Ghaffar: Unifying cyber and physical unlocks powerful new capabilities. For example, cyber-physical teams faced with a threat such as an intrusive device planted within their network environment, can quickly connect the cyber footprint to a physical location – understanding where the threats originate and identify those responsible for bringing it in. Converging physical and cyber identity through platforms that connect physical access control, IT and OT systems is an example of how organisations can better prepare for blended security threats

AI and machine learning (ML) technology helps organisations map complex patterns of user behavior and detect threats in near real time.
An AI-enabled automated system is the most practical and human error-proof solution today


Q: How is AI being used to protect against insider threats?

Ghaffar: With increased security convergence we are now collecting such a large volume of data that relying on manual detection of insider or external threats is no longer a viable solution. An automated system, powered by artificial intelligence used with digital identities, is now the most practical and human error-proof solution today. AI and machine learning (ML) technology helps organisations map complex patterns of user behavior, process tens of millions of events within seconds to detect threats in near-real-time and respond swiftly. This benefits security operations personnel to go from distraction to action, allowing them to focus on what really matters, which are their most critical security events.



Q: Sometimes the threat is about human error.

Oftentimes we think the most harmful insider threats are intentionalGhaffar: Oftentimes we think the most harmful insider threats are intentional; however, unintentional user behavior and negligence could have serious ramifications for an organisation. Organisations should deploy technology that delivers automation and active policy enforcement to prevent employees from making inadvertent yet critical errors. Organisations should also do regular risk assessments – not one and done. Don’t implement a process and think you’re secure. Automated identity and access management technology can provide scheduled access reviews to help detect high-risk user profiles with accumulated or a toxic combination of access, as well as segregation of duties violations due to department change or job transfers.



Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about insider threats?

Ghaffar: First, that the biggest threats originate outside my company. Or that insider threats are a problem for government agencies and highly sensitive organisations, not “regular” companies like us. A company may also mistakenly think that they have limited assets that could be exposed, or that the assets are of little value; therefore, a large-scale breach is less likely to happen. And even if it does, it probably won’t have a big impact.



Risk management leaders should start by developing a compelling visionQ: So, they think “it can’t happen here.”?

Ghaffar: Yes, and they think their employees are inherently trustworthy, and that with basic security measures in place, the risk is small. They think that insider threats are always intentional. Or they think “it’s not my job.”



Q: What next steps should security leaders take in addressing insider threats in their organisation?

Ghaffar: Security and risk management leaders should start by developing a compelling vision and strategy that will resonate with key company stakeholders. They can expand the visibility they have into user activity beyond things that happen on the network. Go beyond a data-centric approach to a people-centric approach through identity behavior analysis. Improving visibility into user activity and taking a more preventive approach are the best ways to manage risk of an incident. Develop an inside-out approach to security. By converging physical, cyber and OT security you’ll gain a holistic view of your enterprise-wide security landscape.

Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

Crossing the divide - automating security processes across physical, business and IT domains
Crossing the divide - automating security processes across physical, business and IT domains

Security is a critical requirement for all organisations. Getting security right involves the correct mix of people, processes and technology working together. However, many enterprise companies don’t look at the full mix that encompasses information security, and instead split their physical security and business continuity teams away from their IT security departments. According to research by ASIS, around half (52 per cent) of companies have converged two or three out of their physical, IT security and business continuity teams together, with the majority of those opting to bring together their continuity and physical security teams. Of those that have not brought teams together, around 70 per cent have no plans to do so. It's Important to bring all department's security together The reason for this is that cybersecurity is perceived as having a more specialist role within the business and that this prevents companies from bringing their departments together. However, while IT security has its own specialist requirements and skills, it should not be looked at alone. Businesses are looking at how to manage risk more effectively across all their operations, and they have problems when their teams are siloed and don’t have the full picture. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed its own guide to this area, based on the growth of the Internet of Things and more connected devices entering both homes and businesses, so this will continue to grow in importance. The rise of automation The pace of change that companies face today, coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, means that more organisations are moving to digital services and automating their operations as much as they can. Security is no exception here - according to our research on security and automation, 75 percent of companies say they would need an additional three or more analysts in place to deal with all their incoming alerts in the same day, while 83 percent say their teams face ‘alert fatigue.’ IT security teams are drowning in data, but they feel unable to cope - yet at the same time, they will have to work more closely with other departments as well. Automation is necessary to deal with all these problems, but it should not be looked at in isolation. While IT security teams are keen to invest in automation using technologies like Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), these investments can be used across both physical and IT security. As IT security teams invest in automation, they can adapt and extend their approach to help risk management and security in the physical world as well. The best approach to be successful around this is to look at areas where real-world and IT security challenges cross over for businesses. To adopt this approach successfully involves understanding business processes better. Fraud detection processes Automation involves using data and analytics to improve how a process operates from beginning to end, including where IT and technology is used to support physical interactions or activities. A good example of this would be a bank’s fraud detection process, where multiple digital and physical transactions have to be monitored and investigated. Bringing together different teams - physical security, business continuity, risk management and IT security - is about how to protect the whole organisation against risk. While the most well-known area for fraud investigation would be credit card transactions, there are multiple different types of transactions to track, from national and international wire transfers to prepaid phone cards and other prepaid cards that can be used for credit purchases. Each of these will have its own workflows and requirements to investigate a transaction, This can include looking at whether transactions are false positives or need further investigation, which is based on a mix of digital documentation for online purchases and physical data from in-person transactions. At the same time, the sophisticated nature of fraud can mean there is a large IT component to any investigation. Members of the IT security team may need to be involved alongside the anti-fraud department. While this investigation is necessary, it pulls analysts away from cybersecurity tasks, which can be especially frustrating where false positives are concerned. Instead, automating the investigation process can help. Consolidating Physical, IT and risk management By consolidating processes and automating the workflow, this pulls physical, IT and risk management together in a smarter and more efficient manner. It also improves productivity for an anti-fraud team as they can remove false positives from the workflow and get automated support for IT analysis. If the team needs more human insight, they can bring this in where they need it rather than requiring it for every investigation. While anti-fraud is one example of where this kind of convergence and collaboration is required, there are other use cases. For instance, industrial control and manufacturing applications that run production lines around the clock are frequently targeted for attacks, either to steal vital data or to disrupt business operations. This crosses over from the realm of IT into the world of operational technology, where systems are very different and the systems used may have been in place for years, even decades. Bringing together different teams - physical security, business continuity, risk management and IT security - is about how to protect the whole organisation against risk. By working together, teams can be more efficient rather than working in their respective silos. This involves better use of data across those teams, which will rely on more automation to be efficient. Using SOAR, security analysts and business risk professionals can cut the amount of time needed to respond to potential problems, reducing the impact and remediating faster. At the same time, it reduces the waste associated with false positives and manual work. The emphasis here should be on how to support the business with better security - by consolidating processes and working more effectively, security teams across the organisation can achieve that goal.

Dahua Technology’s video and access control solution enhances safety in Empresa Panamena de Alimentos food company’s facilities
Dahua Technology’s video and access control solution enhances safety in Empresa Panamena de Alimentos food company’s facilities

Dahua Technology is a globally renowned video-centric smart IoT solutions and services provider. Based on technological innovations, Dahua Technology offers end-to-end security solutions, systems, and services, in order to create value for city operations, corporate management, and consumers. Dahua Technology has designed a video surveillance and control solution for a popular Panamanian Food Company - Empresa Panamena de Alimentos (EPA). Dahua’s security solution Empresa Panamena de Alimentos is a renowned company in the processed food industry in Panama, Central America. It was founded in 2012 and owns production plants and warehouses in the capital city, as well as agencies around the country. EPA’s products, including all kinds of cookies, coffee, and pasta, are already important parts of consumers’ day-to-day life. With the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic risks, EPA needed a system to sustain efficient management and operation, over their staff and facilities. Implementing multiple access controls in the facilities As a food company, the operations of the company need to be under caution, especially during the pandemic As a food company, the operations of the company need to be under caution, especially during the pandemic. It was necessary to implement multiple access controls in the facilities. With multiple plants located around the nation and accelerated growth, a centralised monitoring system for all equipment, alert management and user reports was needed. The solution, applied at EPA’s facilities, integrates various electronic security systems under a single platform and was evaluated based on the company’s needs. ANPR, AI-based cameras and access control systems “Currently, 480 Dahua devices have been arranged. Among them are different models of cameras, access control systems, and automatic number plate recognition products. AI-based cameras enhance the level of personnel protection. Everything is monitored by a DSS Express server in the main plant,” said Luis Araujo, the Manager of Infrastructure and Telecommunications of the Secutec Panama. Every day, more than 800 employees enter EPA facilities nationwide, the access control system allows a faster and safer automated entry of the staff and their cars. Access controllers and Pro Network Video Recorders Besides, three Pro Network Video Recorders (NVR5864-4KS2) were also adopted Apart from automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) devices, more than 20 access controllers (ASI7213X-T1) were installed in main offices for temperature monitoring and attendance management. Besides, three Pro Network Video Recorders (NVR5864-4KS2) were also adopted. With a powerful processor, they have the capability of 4K resolution processing and high definition recording quality. Perimeter protection and access control In Dahua Technology’s security solution, perimeter protection and access control are both realised. “We have had Dahua equipment for 7 years. It is a brand that has been of great help to our safety. It has contributed to continuous and steady operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Guillermo Figueroa, EPA’s Safety and Control Manager. Javier Rodríguez, Secutec Panama’s Operations Manager, valued the quality and technology of Dahua’s solution, which has been ‘key’ for the development of their projects, the support and accompaniment to the brands that are planned to be developed. Trust in Dahua Technology’s solution “We are very proud that our teams are here for EPA and that companies, like EPA and Secutec, trust Dahua Technology. We continue to innovate to offer solutions that help companies to work in a safer and smarter way,” said Fermín Osorio, an Engineer at Dahua Technology Ltd.

Everbridge Control Center deployed by G4S to accelerate Abu Dhabi Global Market Square’s physical security digital transformation
Everbridge Control Center deployed by G4S to accelerate Abu Dhabi Global Market Square’s physical security digital transformation

The Abu Dhabi Global Market Square (ADGMS), located on Al Maryah Island, in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi, is a high-profile, architecturally compelling business and hospitality hub. Many of the most globally prestigious companies inhabit the buildings, in the award-winning financial centre. Abu Dhabi Global Market Square ADGMS also hosts frequent international dignitaries and large-scale public events, including the Abu Dhabi national New Year’s fireworks display. Abu Dhabi Global Market Square was the first project in the UAE, to achieve LEED Core and Shell (LEED-CS) Gold pre-certification, by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The Abu Dhabi Global Market Square (ADGMS) consists of: 450,000 sq. m of office space, a lavish retail section and luxury business hotel offerings, 4 Grade-A commercial office towers with 30 floors each, 4 km waterfront promenade, Over 2,000 cameras, and Over 1,000 doors. Unconnected security systems and situational awareness gaps Because of its iconic status, the Abu Dhabi Global Market Square faces many unique challenges to security, including: Political pressure - Because of ADGMS’s status and frequent high-profile international visitors, any disruption to operations - be it natural disaster, activism, terror or other critical events, could cause issues on a national scale. Protection for VIPs - Regular visits from prestigious VIPs, such as sheikhs, the royal family, and global business leaders, elevates security risks and the need for executive protection. Unobtrusive security - ADGMS is a public space with tenanted offices, meaning that security must be robust, but unobtrusive and follow all global data, and privacy regulations. Physical location - Being situated on an island is an extra security risk, complicating the ability to enter and exit the space, during planned and unplanned critical events or emergencies. Architecture - The buildings in ADGMS are mostly glass, with many levels, making it difficult to secure. Previously, a number of systems were deployed to help with security and life safety, such as CCTV, access control, fire detection, and building management. However, these were not connected and left gaps in situational awareness, which ADGMS found unacceptable. In light of the above challenges, ADGMS building managers felt it essential to harden security, across the market square, within these buildings and in connecting areas. Risk intelligence & integrated control of physical assets Martin Grigg, Principal Consultant and Project Lead for PTS Middle East was selected to design and oversee the project Abu Dhabi Global Market Square approached PTS Middle East (PTS Consulting Group Ltd.), a multi-national security and digital transformation consultancy, which carried out the threat, risk and vulnerability assessment, designed the mitigation measures, and provided oversight of the installation and commissioning of the entire system. They were also tasked with ensuring that the system met the operational requirements and was fit for purpose, and proportional to the risks, faced by ADGMS. Martin Grigg, Principal Consultant and Project Lead for PTS Middle East was selected to design and oversee the project, right from concept to completion. Everbridge Control Center deployed Following the assessment, G4S, a British multi-national risk consultancy company, headquartered in the United Kingdom, was selected to deliver the project, based on its experience in helping secure many of the region’s most prestigious locations. G4S is also a global partner with Everbridge, and together, they have secured people, assets and infrastructure for numerous organisations. G4S selected Everbridge Control Center to integrate and manage all the technology, which is coming into their Security Command Centre (SCC). Everbridge Risk Center was also deployed to provide real-time threat intelligence to ADGMS. Critical issues solved by Everbridge technology: Consolidation of four control rooms into one, reducing the office space needed for security - This premium space is now free and able to be re-purposed as rentable office space, Reduction of man guarding costs, as fewer resources are needed to secure the facility, Real-time situational awareness allows for reduced risk, accelerated response times and keeps stakeholders informed, Everbridge Control Center provides event driven, unified interface and automated SOP presentation, Everbridge technology provides flexibility to adapt, as requirements change, Reduction in time taken to identify a security incident and resolve it, Intelligence from the facial recognition systems is proactively used to welcome friends and identify known criminals, Risk intelligence to identify events, such as sandstorms, allows ADGMS to act faster, enabling them to reduce the risk to people and operations, and Automated reporting capabilities save huge amounts of time and resources - A report that took 20 minutes can now be automated in seconds.