Internal or Insider Threats are Far more Dangerous Than the External – Bala Guntipalli

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Internal or Insider Threats are Far more Dangerous Than the External – Bala Guntipalli

Internal or Insider threats are far more dangerous than the external.

In the 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, IBM found that 60% of all attacks were carried out by insiders that you trust. Of these attacks, three-quarters involved malicious intent, and one-quarter involved careless negligence.

Cyber thieves use personal information to launch spear phishing attacks, commit fraud with social security numbers to steal medical identities to obtain fraudulent prescriptions or merely to blackmail. IBM Security research found healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services are the top three industries under attack, due to their personal data, intellectual property, physical inventory, and massive economic assets.

During a recent visit to a large Midwest healthcare payer/provider with over 23,000 employees at their cybersecurity awareness event, a panel member stated that the average cost of each Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is worth over $1350.

In the article below, “Your Electronic Medical Records Could Be Worth $1000 To Hackers” – Mariya Yao outlines where the most threats originate. Internally.

One can cancel credit cards and even change social security numbers, but health information cannot be changed or canceled. But if there is a breach, hackers can blackmail for a lifetime.

I recommend this reading from my IBM associate, Marc van Zadelhoff on Insider Security Threat, published in Harvard Business Review:

Rogue players from inside companies steal identities to hack into their assets. When I worked at IBM Corporation, I held dual responsibilities for application and server security. I learned firsthand how effectively IBM implements multi-layer protection from internal and external threats which is critical in today’s connected world. It’s interesting to learn from Marc van Zadelhoff about Cyber Security Intelligence Index and his thoughts on Insider Threats. While the value of the records in industries and sectors differ substantially, the threats businesses have in common are people, assets, and the technology. All three have the potential to be an insider threat.

15 Approaches to Minimize Potential Insider Threats: While this is not the complete list, it helps begin the thought process. Ask the IT staff how they ensure “insider malware” is not present already in the network and what precautions are taken so far?

  1. The risk-based approachaddresses each problem individually and is a cost-effective approach with the best results.
  2. Automation is the key. Logging and automating the process of checking the logs for unusual activities is a good idea. Keyword-driven automation testing frameworks might be a fit for the organization. Involve existing resources (e.g., Automation Architects.) Use their expertise to build automation programs to filter, detect and alert based on relevant keywords to identify unusual activities from the large log files. Security and Automation architects should work together, follow a lean approach to achieve the best results.
  3. Regular auditing of high-risk users or employees who have a past problem history with their verbal/non-verbal cues and who are dissatisfied with their job.
  4. Know who the weak links are and working with HR to identify them.
  5. Identify information that is lucrative to rogue players and protect that with additional layers of security.
  6. Traditional methods of investing time and resources in background checks and pre-employment screening still prove valuable.
  7. Cybersecurity is only as strong as the weakest link is. All cybersecurity tools and technologies are one side of the coin and the employees are the other. Employees are often an afterthought of significant cybersecurity incidents or breaches.
  8. Conduct Risk Assessment, Insider Threat Analysis, and Identity Privilege Management. Delete inactive users, contractors, vendors, and vendor ids.
  9. Implement multi-factor authentication. Rotate the critical responsibilities between the employees randomly. Financial institutions have yielded positive results with this approach for decades.
  10. Conduct Basic Social Engineering Attacksand Prevention methods periodically (Phishing, Baiting, Tailgating, Quid Pro Quo, etc.)
  11. Patching and manually checking the patches are actually applied and are the latest version.
  12. Conquer easy things first and then move to next harder threat.
  13. Phish – top to bottom and bottom to top in the organization.
  14. Carefully monitor USB ports, network and look for any abnormal activities.
  15. Monitor vendors and contractors activities strictly. If there is a doubt, phish with relevant content. See who gives the information that they should not. Train.

Something we implemented at IBM and which produced better ROI is “strictly enforcing the separation of duties and identifying least privileges required to perform the job from day one.” This should be the first thing to be done.

No industry or organization is immune to cyber threats. IBM in the 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index suggests how to outthink threats.

It’s time for all organizations, boards, executives, and security leaders to realize that addressing compliance requirements, conducting risk assessments, annual penetration testing or incident response exercises is enough. A single careless employee or a loophole is all a hacker needs to steal millions of dollars’ worth of data and cause irreparable harm to the organization.

The security experts at IBM suggests these four essential steps toward developing a strategic cybersecurity program:

  • Prioritize business objectives and set the risk tolerance
  • Protect the organization with a proactive security plan
  • Prepare a response for the inevitable and sophisticated attacks
  • Promote and support a culture of security awareness

This article was written by Bala Guntipalli, Sr. VP of Technology & Operations at TechVelocity Partners, global technology services company offering cost-effective, independent IT consulting services focused on digital transformation and other game-changing technology strategies.


Executives almost immediately ask about cost of such best practices. A thorough and well implemented security plan don’t need to be exorbitantly priced.

Can you find consultants who combine excellent work at a reasonable cost? It’s not easy to find cybersecurity/business technology consultants with the needed industry expertise who can also easily prove the ROI. Instead of a typical consultant model with “ideas” only and no “implementation”, they are the ones who work relentlessly to solve the problems with passion rather than a desire for a quick contract.

My IT and business advisory processes have been honed over the past two decades across the globe in a variety of small, medium and large enterprises and assisted in expert decision making around “partner,” “buy” or “build” decisions to enable business strategies. I served in leadership capacities at a range of companies including, Cox Group, CUNA, IBM Corporation, Corcoran Real Estate, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Global Healthcare Rehabilitation and more and responsible for strategy, innovation, corporate growth, operations, P&L, and product management.

As a management consultant, I am supported by 2 proven global IT sourcing companies (610 +employees) to achieve quantifiable results, and lessen the risk of working with unknown or newly hired vendors.

I am a unique business-minded IT professional…and a technology-minded business strategist, who advances projects and initiatives with an out of the box approach…

I have observed that some departments view their role as supporting the objectives of a cost center (overhead.)

I focus on:

  1. Acquiring/developing cost-effective, business-appropriate technology, and
  2. Using IT as a means to attract, keep, engage employees and customers… while generating sales, increasing profitability and satisfied customers guided by the “Rotary 4-way test.”
  • Are you prepared to accelerate the business success by transforming into an omnichannel digital enterprise, for a better long-term marketplace position?
  • Are you confident that your IT advisors are helping you exceed your business goals?
  • Are you satisfied in the way your company calculates ROIT (return on IT spend)?
  • Are you sure when a new product or service is developed, the TCO (Total cost of ownership) is reduced, and the ROIT is improved?

I have accreditations from Harvard University (Cybersecurity: Managing Organization’s Critical Business Systems, Networks, Data and Risk In The IT Age), The Indian Institute of Technology (1 Year course in IT),  an MBA from Madurai University, India, Mini MBA in Healthcare from University of St. Thomas, MN. I am a recognized public speaker, an author on Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity. I’m an experienced past board member for 3 for-profit US companies and non-profit. 1) ArtSpace International, owned 25 Art galleries in GA; 2) Global Rehabilitation, a healthcare company in MN; 3) – most mgmnt consultants are Ph.D.’s in their specialty; Non-profit – RisingStar Outreach, and serving as a President at Plymouth Rotary.

Bala Guntipalli, Sr. VP – Technology and Operations;; 612 322 2470; [email protected];

Feel free to comment on your experiences or tactics you found useful in uncovering insider threats/risks.



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