Early Signs of Malicious Users on Your Network

By: Jamie Neilon

Network security is of utmost importance in the modern business world. Keeping your data and your resources secure is essential, and while you may have a great firewall and comprehensive encryption, sometimes it’s not enough to keep a malicious user away from your network.  A malicious user could be someone with authorized access who is acting in bad faith or it could be a hacker who has somehow snuck onto your network. You can detect a bad network user, even when the “user” is automated malware hidden in a computer, if you have the right tools.

With network monitoring and the skills of an experienced IT security team, you can detect the signs of malicious network user early and root out the bug before real problems arise.

Unusual Bandwidth Usage

Your company’s high-speed bandwidth is used in a regular pattern by the members of your team. A combination of authorized programs and daily workflow make up this pattern. Anything that breaks this pattern, especially periods of significantly increased network traffic at an unusual time of day, should be deemed suspicious immediately and investigated. For example, high bandwidth usage in the middle of the night can often be indicative of stealth-malware designed to transmit stolen data, download more malware, or receive orders when it won’t be noticed. 

External Connections

External connections to your network should always be monitored and confirmed as valid before the connection is approved. One way to spot hackers or their malware is to pay attention to the nature of a new external connection.

If, for example, something tries to connect to your network outside of your established employee login route or approved software ports, that’s very likely a hacker. 

You should also pay attention to where (and from what device) external connections are made. New device connections need to be verified and approved.  When a familiar login connects from an unfamiliar and atypical location, this often means that login information was stolen and is being used by a hacker who lives somewhere else. 

Account Changes

Resetting a password is common, but changing a password and the associated email address often indicates theft of the account, leaving the original account holder unable to regain access. You should also raise the alarm if someone tries to reset a password, but the request does not go through. This scenario is likely because they don’t have access to the phone or original email connected to the account.

Recent changes of address, especially those not communicated to you by the account holder in question, are also suspicious.

Understanding Detection Controls

The key to catching a bad apple in your network and ousting them is early detection. With the proper implementation, network monitoring software can learn your company’s daily network usage and flag anything that is abnormal or deviates from expected behavior. You can use account monitoring software to detect suspicious changes and activities as well.

Building a Robust Security Posture

The best way to keep malicious users off your network is to build a robust cybersecurity posture. The more information you have about your network, the better armed you are to protect your team. If your detection controls flag suspicious account behaviors, it’s worth your while to investigate. Legitimate users will have a good reason they can share – like cleverly setting up a large software-update download during off-work hours out of courtesy for coworkers on the network.

When there is no simple explanation, it’s time to dive in and secure the account, find that malware, or close the security gap that allowed a hacker into your network. Contact us today for more savvy network security insights!

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