Helping Stop Insider Threats at Your Agency

By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering & Global CTO

Last year, in SolarWinds’ annual cybersecurity survey of federal IT managers, respondents listed “careless and untrained insiders” as a top cybersecurity threat, tying “foreign governments” at 48 percent. External threats may be more sensational, but for many federal network administrators, the biggest threat may be sitting right next to them.

To combat internal threats in your IT environment, focus your attention on implementing a combination of tools, procedures, and good old-fashioned information sharing.


Our survey respondents identified tools pertaining to identity and access management, intrusion prevention and detection, and security information and log and event management software as “top- tier” tools to prevent both internal and external threats. Each of these can help network administrators automatically identify potential problems and trace intrusions back to their source, whether that source is a foreign attacker or simply a careless employee who left an unattended USB drive on their desk.


Some 16 percent of the survey respondents cited “lack of end-user security training” as a significant cause of increased agency vulnerability. The dangers, costs and threats posed by accidental misuse of agency information, mistakes and employee error shouldn’t be underestimated. Agency employees need to be acutely aware of the risks that carelessness can bring.


While a majority of agencies (55 percent) feel that they are just as vulnerable to attacks today as they were a year ago, the survey indicates that more feel they are less vulnerable (28 percent) than more vulnerable (16 percent), hence the need to make policies a focal point to prevent network risks. These policies can serve as blueprints that outline agencies’ overall approaches to security, but should also contain specific details regarding authorized users and the use of acceptable devices. That’s especially key in this new age of bring-your-own-anything.

Finally, remember that security starts with you and your IT colleagues. As you’re training others in your organization, take time to educate yourself. Read up on the latest trends and threats. Talk to your peers. Visit online forums. And see how experts and bloggers (like yours truly) are noting how the right combination of technology, training, and policies can effectively combat cybersecurity threats.

  Find the full article on GovLoop.

  • Currently reading a sci-fi kindle book called Cyberstorm (Mathew Mather).  It deals with an immense worldwide cyber attack that effectively shuts everything down from the perspective of a family in New York during a massive snow storm.  Apparently 20th Century Fox is developing it for film.

  • Nice.  I read a new science fiction author's work probably every two weeks via Kindle.  Like you, I enjoy the classics / Grand Masters, etc. 

    Alfred Bester goes under-appreciated, in my estimation.  The same goes for Cordwainer Smith.

  • Heinlein is one of my favourites too, along with most of the other Classic Sci-Fi/Sci-Fact authors like Phillip K ***, Asimov, Herbert, Clarke, Bradbury, and Orwell, to name but a few. Frequently go back and reread their works. Always on the lookout for the next generation of soon to be Classic Authors... like John Scalzi (Old Man's War).

  • There's something to that.  Remove humans and you remove the future, effectively eliminating history (which is human-centric from my point of view).

    Heinlein also wrote: "A generation which ignores history has no past and no future."

    Could there be something about hackers that comes from an inner problem?

    Heinlein:  "If you don't like yourself, you can't like other people."

    Maybe the issue is that problems are created without adequate knowledge of vulnerabilities.  And that we need a group of people trained to observe code creation, and to prevent vulnerabilities from being built.

    Heinlein didn't much care for groups of people making decisions: "A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain."

    Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough For Love, Friday, The Door Into Summer, Methuselah's Children . . .  He wrote so many fascinating and interesting books, with comments that make one really start thinking.  He was my favorite author for most of my life.

  • I think the only thing guaranteed to eliminate Security risks - Remove the Humans.... drastic yes, but issue resolved... unless it becomes Bot .vs Bot. emoticons_silly.png

    Seriously though I think it is truly back to Education, Policy, and enforcement.

    “Most neuroses and some psychoses can be traced to the unnecessary and unhealthy habit of daily wallowing in the troubles and sins of five billion strangers.”

      ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land