Advanced Data Loss Prevention: An Overview of Insider Risk Management  

In today’s digital age, the complexity and connectivity of organizational ecosystems expose them to a myriad of security threats, with insider risks standing out as particularly worrisome. Recent trends indicate a rising prevalence of these risks, as sensitive data and critical assets become increasingly accessible. The severity of insider threats—ranging from unintentional data leaks to malicious insider activities—underscores the need for a robust insider risk management solution. 

This blog post delves into the multifaceted nature of insider risks, explores the consequences of inadequate management, and outlines effective strategies and tools, particularly those offered by Microsoft Purview, to mitigate potential insider threats. 

Understanding Insider Risk 

At its core, insider risk refers to the potential for damage caused by individuals within an organization through negligence or malicious intent. Insider risk can manifest in various forms, including theft of data or intellectual property, accidental sharing of sensitive information, or deliberate sabotage. Distinguishing between unintentional and intentional insider risks is crucial, as each requires a different approach in terms of detection, prevention, and response. 

The fallout from poorly managed internal risks is vast and varied. Financial losses from incidents such as data breaches can be astronomical, not to mention the irreversible damage to an organization’s reputation. The erosion of customer trust, legal consequences, and the potential disruption of operations can stifle business profitability and growth. High-profile cases of data theft and breaches underscore the critical need for vigilant insider risk management. 

Even for organizations that have implemented basic data loss prevention (DLP) and information protection controls, these foundational measures, while essential, may not fully suffice in the nuanced landscape of insider risk management. The evolving nature of cyber threats and the increasing sophistication of malicious insiders mean that relying solely on traditional data loss prevention and information protection mechanisms can leave gaps in an organization’s security posture. 

While these controls are effective in safeguarding against various data security issues, insider risks often involve complex human behaviors and subtle risk indicators that may not trigger standard data loss prevention rules. Furthermore, sensitive information can sometimes be mishandled or misappropriated in ways that evade typical information protection measures. Conversely, overly restrictive information protection measures can interfere with legitimate daily business operations. Organizations need to strike a balance between data protection and user experience. 

The complexities of balancing risk prevention with user experience underscore the necessity for a more comprehensive, behavior-based approach to data loss prevention. Fortunately, Microsoft Purview’s Insider Risk Management tool integrates with existing information protection and data loss prevention policies by incorporating advanced analytics, machine learning, and detailed user activity monitoring to identify and mitigate insider threats effectively. 

The Technical Defense: Microsoft Purview 

Microsoft Purview has a sophisticated set of tools in the fight against data loss and insider risks. Its Insider Risk Management tool leverages advanced analytics and machine learning to scrutinize user activity and detect anomalies that may indicate a risk. Integration with many data sources, including HR platforms such as Workday and cloud storage systems (e.g., Google Drive, Box, Dropbox), allows for a full view of potential insider risk incidents. Insider Risk Management combines signals from external data sources, Microsoft 365, client computers, and its own analytics to create a user’s risk profile. Consider the following three examples of how Insider Risk Management can mitigate the risk of data loss without impacting general user experience. 

Example 1: Just Getting Started 

An organization, having initiated its data loss prevention journey, soon realizes the complexity of fully understanding and identifying its data loss vectors. Despite having basic data loss prevention measures in place, the organization struggles to pinpoint the specific areas where data leakage or loss could potentially occur, acknowledging that its initial approach might not encompass the breadth of security threats it faces. To address this challenge, the organization looks to Insider Risk Management within Microsoft Purview, seeking to leverage its advanced capabilities to uncover and understand the nuances of the organization’s data security landscape. 

By implementing Insider Risk Management, the organization can gain deep visibility into user activities and data interactions across its environment. Insider Risk Management provides an overview of user activities that can outline how information is handled, shared, and accessed, both internally and externally. For example, the reports available in Insider Risk Management can reveal that large volumes of data are consistently downloaded locally from a SharePoint site containing sensitive data. 

The organization can then use insights garnered from this analysis to reveal previously unseen patterns and trends, exposing potential vulnerabilities and risky behaviors that could lead to data breaches or loss. Armed with this knowledge, the organization can devise targeted, informed policies that address these specific issues, effectively closing previously unknown security gaps. 

Example 2: Company Layoffs 

Take, for example, a large corporation faced with the daunting task of navigating a significant layoff. Recognizing the heightened risk of data exfiltration (both accidental and intentional) during such turbulent periods, the company can leverage the advanced capabilities of Insider Risk Management in Microsoft Purview, integrated with its HR management system (such as Workday), to preemptively secure sensitive data and automatically manage access control. 

As part of this integration, “signals” from Workday indicating impending layoffs can be used to dynamically adjust data access and sharing policies for affected employees. Under normal circumstances, the sharing of data externally, including to thumb drives, was a legitimate business activity for employees involved in client projects and data analysis. However, given the sensitive nature of the layoffs, there is a pressing need to mitigate the risk of data exfiltration by these soon-to-be-laid-off employees. 

Example 3: Adjusting External Sharing Policies 

Consider a scenario in which an organization, aiming to secure external data sharing, implemented stringent policies that required users to provide justifications for every externally sent email or shared document. While well-intentioned, these measures proved to be cumbersome, creating bottlenecks in workflows. Employees found the constant need for justifications disruptive, leading to frustration and decreased productivity. In response, the organization switched to a model in which no justification was required but an arbitrarily chosen threshold of externally shared content would trigger an alert. Instead, admins struggled to sift through the high volume of alerts to identify genuine risks. 

Insider Risk Management has a feature called Adaptive Protection that eliminates the above problems. With Adaptive Protection, a user’s risk level is continuously evaluated using machine learning models based on their user behavior. Instead of using a fixed threshold for blocking or alerting, this feature allows an appropriate action to happen dynamically (such as blocking of external sharing) based on the user’s risk level. This per-user approach ensures security measures are both effective and minimally intrusive, striking a balance between robust security and operational efficiency. 

Partner with Ravenswood for Enhanced Security 

Would your organization benefit from insider risk management? Ravenswood Technology Group provides expertise in cybersecurity, cloud security, and compliance solutions, making us an ideal partner in implementing an effective data loss prevention strategy that includes insider risk management. With a team of seasoned architects and consultants, we offer services that cover the spectrum of security needs, from identity management to regulatory compliance. 

Insider threat management is not merely a technical challenge; it’s a strategic necessity for modern organizations. The integration of sophisticated technical solutions such as Microsoft Purview, coupled with best practices in data security and employee training, forms a robust defense against insider threats. We are well-equipped to help organizations navigate the intricacies of designing and implementing a full data loss prevention program, ensuring an organization’s most critical assets are protected. Prioritize insider risk mitigation and data loss prevention to keep your organization’s data secure today


Azure Automation and SQL Server

Microsoft Azure Automation is a service that is designed to automate operational tasks across Azure and on-premises environments. It provides a way to create, test,

6 Tips to Harden Your Windows LAPS Deployment

In a previous blog post, we covered how to migrate to Windows Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS). With Windows LAPS deployments gaining traction, it’s important

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.