Protecting your corporate intranet from both internal and external threats is a complex challenge. Just ask Reddit. In February 2023, the social media giant was the victim of hackers when an employee fell for a phishing scam that directed them to a fake intranet gateway. The victim entered their credentials and 2FA token, giving the attacker unfettered access to Reddit’s systems and data.

It’s a cautionary tale that underscores the danger of an insider security threat, the cause of one-in-three data breaches. Whether it’s a malicious actor deliberately creating a security breach or a well-meaning employee who clicks the wrong link, insiders can wreak havoc by exploiting their privileged access.

The pandemic breathed new life into the corporate intranet, which became a much-needed source of employee communication during stay at home orders. While intranets have made it possible for organizations to embrace a new and very modern way of doing work (namely, hybrid/remote work), it’s also scaled the potential for employees, intentionally or not, to leak sensitive information. And with pressure to add new innovations like generative AI, there’s an increasing number of touchpoints to account for.

Executives set expectations about the importance of intranet security. They fund the technical support and guidance needed to integrate security into employee communication processes. Taking a human-centric approach to cybersecurity turns employees into allies and helps reduce the risk of costly insider breaches. 

Choosing the right search platform to help buttress access to information can also help mitigate these risks. 

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The Basics of Intranet Security

Intranet security is everyone’s responsibility – including employees, vendors, and partners. It’s not just an IT concern. It’s a strategic business imperative.

Intranet security focuses on maintaining a secure network to reduce risk. It’s not one specific thing. It employs a combination of:

  • Data protection best practices
  • Digital workplace security strategies and education
  • Information technology and infrastructure 

The above work together to protect the company intranet from unauthorized access and security threats. Security standards, policies, education, and technology keep data protected and internal communication secure. 

Since companies are embracing digital transformation, employing cloud services, customer data, and connected platforms to operate, intranet security must be a critical part priority. Intranet vulnerabilities occur in the context of digital transformation because:

  • Rapid adoption of cloud services, remote work, and mobile devices expand the potential “attack surface” of your corporate infrastructure. That is, there are many more entry points, internal staff, and system vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. 
  • Increased digital interconnectivity means that the impact of a breach or insider threat can be severe. In some cases, it can be so severe that it shuts you down, disrupts operations, leads to data loss, and costs you a fortune in fines and ransom fees to hackers (e.g., ransomware). It may also do irreparable damage to your reputation. 

Understanding/Recognizing Internal & External Risks to Internet Security  

Insider threats occur because of employee negligence or ignorance, lack of clear accountability, particularly from remote workers using personal devices, and malicious actors deliberately sabotaging networks. To effectively safeguard sensitive information, you need a strong cybersecurity culture driven by company leadership. 

But external threats lurk around every corner too. Hackers are relentless. They probe for weaknesses, launch phishing campaigns, plant malware, and exploit software vulnerabilities. Once they’re in, the damage can be catastrophic.

The solution to reducing intranet security threats requires a multi-pronged defense, including but not limited to:

  • Technical controls like firewalls and intrusion detection
  • Employee training and intranet best practices around information sharing and appropriate system access 
  • Teach employees to spot and report threats 
  • Establish clear security policies
  • Cultivate a culture of responsibility around cybersecurity 

This is what works to help reduce threats. Now, we’ll dive into some of the key challenges companies face around intranet security and provide you with some best practices on how to tackle them.

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Key Challenges & Intranet Security Best Practices 

There is no quick fix to maintaining effective intranet security. Remote work and remote access to modern intranet resources have blurred the lines between personal and professional networks. The influx of touchpoints, devices, and people with access have expanded your company’s attack surface. 

Employee experience in terms of intranet usability often trumps secure intranet protocols, leaving you vulnerable to mistakes, breaches, and attacks.

Accounting for threats from both inside and outside your organization is the biggest challenge here. Breaches can come from a phishing scam or a disgruntled employee just as easily as they can from an external hacker exploiting a security flaw. 

Ensuring secure access across a dizzying array of devices and networks without making everyone feel like they’re working in a maximum-security prison is also challenging. But there are ways to keep your sensitive data safe and your employees empowered. 

Here are the non-negotiables:

Fortify Your Access Controls

Access controls are your intranet’s bouncers, deciding who gets in and what they can access once inside. But just like bouncers can be fooled by fake IDs, traditional access controls can be duped by stolen credentials. Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional proof of identity beyond just a password. 

Role-based access control (RBAC) also adds another line of defense against unauthorized intranet user access. It ensures that users only have access to the resources they need to do their jobs. 

Another effective defense tactic is single sign-on (SSO), which allows users to sign into multiple systems with the same credentials. AI search platforms like Coveo help centralize data that lessens information overwhelm while offering enterprise-grade platform security and access management to keep bad actors out and data secure. 

A diagram illustrates how user access is preserved even within a unified index
A diagram illustrates how user access permissions are preserved even within a unified index.

Encrypt Everything

Encryption keeps your data safe whether it’s in transit or at rest. It’s especially important in the context of remote work since employees can access your intranet from mobile devices, external networks, and their best friend’s laptop. Each access point represents a potential vulnerability. 

Encrypting data in transit and at rest makes it secure even if an attacker intercepts it since they won’t be able to decipher it without the encryption key. Encryption also helps you stay on the right side of data protection regulations like HIPAA and GDPR. 

Forget “Trust, but Verify” and go with Zero Trust

“Trust, but verify” is a security approach that assumes users and endpoints are trusted once they log into a system, though their actions should still be verified to ensure they’re not malicious. It uses firewalls, passwords, and security keys to protect systems and information. But it’s not hack proof, as the Reddit data breach illustrates. Plus, weak passwords are easily cracked, letting intruders into your system. 

Instead of the “Trust, but verify” approach, many companies are moving to a Zero trust model. This means that anyone who has access to your intranet – both internally and externally – requires continuous verification for any access point. 

Zero Trust also maintains limited access to systems so that if a breach does occur, the damage can be minimized. Limited access allows you to contain a breach to a small piece of your connected system. Finally, automated and continual monitoring of all connected systems is what keeps a Zero trust approach up to date and able to consistently detect potential vulnerabilities.

Empower Your Employees

Your employees are your first line of defense against cyber threats, but they can also be your weakest link. Arm them with the knowledge and tools they need to work securely. 

Standard network security training topics should include:

  • Educating employees about security standards like NIST, ISO 27001, or CIS Controls.
  • General and ongoing security awareness training (e.g., teaching staff how to spot phishing attempts, create strong passwords, and understand access controls.)
  • Providing information about what successful secure intranet design looks like (e.g., Zero trust, encryption, etc.)
  • Basic knowledge sharing best practices that emphasize data security (e.g., using a secure collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams versus sharing sensitive information on your mobile device).

Conducting exercises like phishing simulations can also help employees identify insidious schemes that may otherwise catch them off guard. We also recommend you provide secure collaboration tools and make it easy to report suspicious activity.

Weave security best practices into your intranet knowledge management approach. All of this contributes to a “security first” culture that empowers employees to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Intranet Security is Everyone’s Responsibility

Intranet security is a moving target, but it’s one you can’t afford to miss. The threats are coming from inside and outside your corporate house. The good news is that you can build an intranet that’s as secure as it is productive by creating an intranet security framework that focuses on:

  • Fortifying access controls
  • Encrypting everything
  • Embracing a zero-trust mindset
  • Empowering your employees to be security superheroes

Maintaining intranet security requires support from leadership and an intentional strategy. Everyone who has access to your intranet is responsible for keeping your network safe. This requires an ongoing commitment, plus constant vigilance, adaptation, and a willingness to stay one step ahead of bad actors. 

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Empower your intranet security with Coveo. Explore strategies to safeguard sensitive data now. 

Intranet Search & Knowledge Management
Modernize your intranet with AI-powered search

Dig Deeper

Security is at the forefront of everyone’s mind – or at least it should be. From the death of third party cookies, to HIPAA, and Generative AI: companies are trying to understand how to keep data safe, secure, and compliant, all while still being able to deliver world-class digital experiences.

Watch this session to uncover how Coveo’s security practice and philosophy keep your data and users safe – without compromising on innovation.

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