Understanding the Impact of Cloud Access Security Brokers on Insider Threats

Versa Networks

Cloud access security brokers (CASB) are software between cloud service users and their cloud applications, monitoring activity and enforcing security policies. They offer deep visibility into current cloud environments, identify risky files and enable granular control of data in motion in the cloud. Remote work and the adoption of cloud apps are creating new enterprise security challenges. CASB solutions can help protect against insider threats, regulatory noncompliance and malware.

Security Policy Enforcement

The threat landscape is vast, and the damage caused by malicious insiders can be catastrophic for organizations. Several security defenses can mitigate these threats in cloud environments, including enforcing strict access controls, implementing least privilege principles, and monitoring suspicious behavior. Additionally, companies can establish incident response protocols to address any detected malicious activity and prevent future incidents promptly. Another effective technical defense against insider threats in the cloud is deploying CASB solutions with user behavior analytics. This technology can detect abnormal patterns in an employee’s data access and usage that indicate potential compromise. CASB vendors such as Versa Networks can use their global research and third-party threat feeds to identify abnormal behaviors and trigger alerts based on the type of action.

Aside from the risk of compromised data, unauthorized file sharing is another common issue organizations face. CASBs can be deployed to monitor and control sensitive files shared outside the network, such as via public links, to prevent sabotage by disgruntled employees or other malicious actors. This is accomplished by deploying policies such as data loss prevention (DLP) and role-based access controls. CASBs can also detect and remediate SaaS misconfigurations that expose a service to attack. In these cases, the CASB solution will send alerts to administrators to fix the problem.

Access Control

CASBs monitor cloud use and identify and block threats. They prevent unauthorized data sharing with third parties, detect and remediate SaaS misconfigurations, scan for malicious content that could be downloaded to employees’ devices and provide malware prevention. They also establish a baseline of normal behavior for each user persona and can automatically detect, override or educate users participating in unauthorized activities.

Malicious insiders are harder to catch than external threat actors because they have legitimate access to their targeted systems and data. They’re also familiar with security procedures and can often bypass them without raising suspicion. This makes it harder for organizations to notice an incident until it’s too late and has already caused lasting damage.

For example, attackers can steal the credentials of careless employees and gain entry to critical systems using ransomware. They then exploit compromised employee machines to conduct various malicious activities, such as stealing trade secrets (including sales quotes and bidding information), releasing confidential client data or distributing phishing emails. Such attacks can result in financial losses, reputational damage and legal repercussions. Malicious insiders are often motivated by a financial incentive but can also be driven by ideological motivations or revenge against the organization. Sometimes, they’re part of a collusive threat where an internal actor partners with an external adversary for financial gains, intellectual property theft or espionage.

Data Encryption

Malicious insiders often use compromised employee machines as a home base to scan file shares, escalate privileges and infect other systems. When this happens, stopping the threat is difficult until it’s too late.

CASBs help organizations identify and mitigate risk by monitoring privileged access activity to prevent data loss. They also encrypt fingerprint files moving onto and off cloud applications, limiting the risk of data loss. This is especially important for critical data like intellectual property, patents and financial information. Another way a CASB can reduce insider threats is by limiting the number of people with access to key systems. For example, if an employee deletes sensitive data, two or more employees should be involved for verification. This helps reduce the impact of an insider attack and ensures that the data can be recovered even if one person is malicious or has lost their credentials. Other potential risks of an insider threat include the organization losing clients as they associate the company with a poor security record. In addition, the company’s stock price can drop as investors lose confidence in the organization. This can make it difficult to attract new investors and even harder to retain existing ones. This type of damage to the organization can have devastating effects.

User Monitoring

Malicious insiders exploit vulnerabilities and mishandle data to attack an organization’s system or key resources. These attacks usually involve an attempt to download data and move it outside the protected network, also known as “data exfiltration.” Malicious insiders often hide their unauthorized actions using overt channels such as cloud sync storage services, FTP servers or tunneled networks. These exfiltration methods can be detected by CASBs that use forward proxies, SSL man-in-the-middle techniques or a combination of both.

CASBs can detect anomalies in a user’s behavior that could indicate malicious intent. Abnormalities can include logging in from unusual locations or times, a sudden change in an employee’s normal pattern (like downloading a large amount of data), and activities inconsistent with the employee’s role or duties. Those anomalies can be flagged and alerted to security professionals so they can investigate the activity to determine its true cause and take action accordingly. CASBs can also prevent shadow IT and other potential threats by monitoring and discovering risky infrastructure configurations and identifying and stopping unauthorized devices and applications from being used on the corporate network. This prevents the need for administrators to manually inspect each device and application, which can lead to mistakes that result in a data breach incident. With CASB, organizations can gain visibility and insights into how their data is accessed and used through dashboards, access controls and threat prevention features that monitor for suspicious authentication attempts, stale apps and other threats that would impact security and lead to an insider attack.