An insider threat vs. an outsider threat – Which is worse and why?

Itzik Alvas, Co-founder & CEO, Entro
June 8, 2023

The two types of software security attacks organizations encounter are insider and outsider threats. In this blog post, we’ll explore which threats are more significant to companies and how secrets management can help protect against them.


Insider vs outsider threat: Which is the greater risk?

An insider security threat refers to potential risks posed by individuals with authorized access to an organization’s systems, data, or resources. These individuals may include employees, contractors, or business partners. Insider threats can be malicious or unintentional, such as an employee stealing sensitive data for personal gain or unintentionally downloading malware onto the company’s network.

On the other hand, an outsider threat refers to security risks from individuals or groups outside an organization without authorized access to its systems or resources. These threats typically involve hackers or cybercriminals attempting to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s data or infrastructure, often through tactics like phishing, social engineering, or exploiting software vulnerabilities.

While both insider and outsider security threats pose significant risks to an organization, insider threats are often considered more challenging to detect and prevent due to the inherent trust and access granted to these individuals, or applications.

The city of Dallas lost 8.7 million crucial files, including police case evidence, due to an IT worker’s improper file movement, deleting nearly 23 terabytes of data. This is a prime example of how negligence can be more dangerous than outsider threats because insiders have legitimate access to the information they are trying to steal or compromise.

In another example, Mailchimp, a popular email marketing service, experienced a triple data breach in 2022. In January 2023, cybercriminals successfully executed a phishing attack, tricking a Mailchimp employee into revealing their login credentials. As a consequence, at least 133 Mailchimp user accounts were compromised, including those belonging to notable businesses such as WooCommerce, Yuga Labs, Statista, Solana Foundation, and FanDuel. These breaches highlight how insider and outsider threats pose a crucial risk to any organization.

Insiders know the security protocols, access codes, and other security measures, making it easy for them to bypass security safeguards. Additionally, insiders are often challenging to detect because they are already authorized to access the information they may be trying to steal. Outsiders may use insiders as leverage to gain access to even more sensitive data than otherwise possible.


The role of secrets management in protecting against insider threats

Did you know that “Two of three insider threat incidents are caused by negligence”?

To mitigate the risk of insider security threats, companies must implement a comprehensive security strategy, including technical controls, tools, policies, and employee education, to address intentional and unintentional incidents. One effective solution is to adopt a secrets management tool that enables organizations to securely manage and monitor sensitive information, such as API keys and encryption keys. By centralizing and encrypting these secrets, organizations can control access and track usage, which will reduce the risk of unauthorized access and leakage.

Here are some ways a comprehensive secrets management tool can help protect the company from insider threats.


a. Integrates with vaults to manage and monitor all secrets securely

Although vaults provide a centralized location to securely store and manage all secrets, they don’t explicitly reduce the risk of unauthorized access or offer protection. Choosing a tool that goes beyond the basics is crucial to effectively manage secrets and mitigate the risk of insider security threats. This is where Entro stands out as the ultimate secrets management platform.

Entro is a holistic secrets security platform that offers a comprehensive approach to detecting, protecting, and enhancing the security of sensitive information across various environments, including vaults, code repositories, chat platforms, and more. It integrates with vaults to offer a holistic view of company secrets and provides the capability to monitor, manage, and govern credentials and programmatic access to cloud services and data.


b. Create context around secrets

In addition to its core secrets management capabilities, Entro also offers powerful secrets enrichment features that bring meaningful context to each secret. It enriches secrets with metadata such as the secret owner, creation timestamp, creator identity, and the last rotation date. Additionally, Entro captures information about which cloud service the secret can access and its specific associated privileges. Risks associated with the secret can also be documented, ensuring comprehensive threat assessment and mitigation.

Entro goes beyond merely capturing metadata; it enables the creation of dynamic threat model maps which visualize the relationship between applications and the secrets they utilize to access cloud services. By understanding the vital details surrounding each secret, organizations gain visibility into their secrets infrastructure, facilitating security audits and ensuring compliance with industry regulations.


c. Move beyond scanning

In the realm of secrets management, scanning tools have become commonplace for identifying exposed secrets. However, they often present a challenge when understanding the context and taking appropriate action. This is where Entro takes a different approach. It goes beyond the surface-level identification of secrets and enriches them with valuable metadata and contextual information.

By providing context on exposed secrets, Entro helps organizations to make informed decisions in case of a breach. Understanding the origin of a secret, its ownership, associated risks, and the privileges it holds allows for better security measures and compliance efforts. This is vital information to understand the whole story of a secret from an insider’s point of view. Armed with this contextual knowledge, organizations can take prompt and appropriate action, such as rotating the secret, updating access controls, or investigating potential security breaches.


Benefits of a highly functional secrets security & management solution

Here are some of the benefits of a highly functional secrets security & management solution:


a. Enhanced security and reduced risk of data breaches

Entro’s advanced detection and safeguarding capabilities protect secrets across vaults, code, chat tools, wikis, and other collaboration platforms. These tools are used by insiders, and they should be monitored for secret exposure. By visualizing and tracking the activity of all secrets, organizations can quickly identify and respond to any potential security threats. The platform offers deep secret analysis, anomaly detection, and metadata enrichment, allowing for a proactive approach to security and reducing the risk of data breaches.

b. Centralized management to support compliance with regulatory frameworks

Organizations usually use multiple vaults, sometimes more than 5 different vaults if it’s a large organization. This results in secrets sprawl, where organizations have more secrets than they can handle. They are completely unaware of how many secrets are active, how many are exposed, and what the risk level of each secret is. A secrets management solution provides a centralized location to manage and monitor all secrets securely. This approach helps businesses meet compliance requirements such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR. Entro gives you a single pane of glass from which to manage and monitor all secrets in all vaults, no matter where they exist, or what cloud resources they secure. By ensuring that all secrets are managed from a single location, businesses can simplify the process of auditing and reporting.

c. Enforcing access controls to reduce the risk of insider threats

A secrets management solution enables businesses to enforce access controls and reduce the risk of insider threats. Businesses can use a role-based access control model to ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive information. The solution can also monitor for unauthorized access attempts and alert security teams to potential threats.

d. Anomaly detection/continuous monitoring

A secrets management solution can detect anomalous behavior and continuously monitor for potential threats. The solution can identify unusual activity patterns by analyzing access logs and alert security teams to potential threats. Think of a service that is usually accessed about 2 times a day during work hours, suddenly being accessed hundreds of times at 3 am. Entro can spot this activity, and report on it, complete with all the details about where it’s coming from, who’s requesting it, which resources are at stake, and more. This insight can help you tell whether it’s an insider or outsider attack, and take appropriate action.

e. Misconfiguration alerts

A secrets management solution can also help to detect misconfigurations that could lead to security vulnerabilities. By scanning for misconfigured secrets stores, vaults, or secrets, the solution can alert security teams to potential risks and enable them to take corrective action before an insider breach occurs.

f. Principle of least privilege

A secrets management solution supports the principle of least privilege, which limits access to sensitive information to only those who require it to perform their job functions, or those applications that require it for a particular task. Entro checks if any secret holds excessive privileges, and alerts you to take action to reduce its privileges. For example, if an application is using a secret to access a database, and the application is only reading from the database, but the secret holds admin or write permissions, this secret’s privileges should be reduced to read-only. In this way, Entro ensures that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive information, which reduces the risk of data breaches and insider security threats.


In today’s digital landscape, organizations face the challenge of managing their cloud-native stack while securing their secrets from exposure. Entro is a comprehensive secrets security, discovery, management, monitoring, and response platform that provides end-to-end visibility into every secret’s lifecycle. This enables security teams to prevent insider and outsider security threats, protecting their organization’s valuable secrets, keys, and assets.

With Entro, organizations can reduce secret risks, accelerate remediation, and save time and money for their security and development teams. Organizations can prevent compromise and maintain security by governing any secret from a single pane of glass and proactively identifying, prioritizing, remediating, and preventing risks.

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