To Err is Human: How to Protect Against Security Breaches Caused by Human Error

When you think about cyberattacks, you might envision hackers toiling away in a basement or some faraway country; however, the unfortunate reality is that a whopping 88% of security breaches are caused by human error.

While faulty software, malicious threat actors, or backend development problems can certainly result in cyberattacks, security breaches caused by human error surprisingly are the main culprit of cyber incidents. These breaches allow for critical data to be compromised, causing a ripple effect of system downtime and network outages, loss of use of devices, and more. In addition to the general difficulties presented by a disruption in business continuity and reputational damage to the brand, the implications of a cyber incident aren’t cheap; the average cost of a data breach is expected to reach $5 million this year.

Cyber Awareness Reduces Security Breaches Caused by Human Error

50% of employees are “very” or “pretty” certain they have made an error at work that could have led to security issues for their company… and that’s just those that are willing to admit to their mistakes. So how do you train your team to behave differently and get ahead of all these potential errors, when making mistakes is inherently part of being human?

The answer is to use our human tendencies to our benefit. Today, it is known that, psychologically, there are certain aspects of upholding habits that are key to people being able to maintain them. To train your team in an effective, meaningful way, we recommend the following approach for preventing security breaches caused by human error:

#1: Make it easy

Use a password manager.

Password hygiene is an area in which many struggle to adhere to cybersecurity best practices, and this is where a password manager comes into play. Password managers create and store strong and unique passwords for each of your accounts, which takes the guesswork out of creating a new password for each account, while housing them all in one, secure place. When threat actors can’t access your accounts, they have a much harder time compromising your organization.

Aggregate your information.

The sheer amount of news sources, outlets, perspectives, and content can be overwhelming, which presents an issue as to how to stay informed of the evolving cybersecurity landscape.  A streamlined, curated email alert regularly delivered directly to your inbox allows you and your team to stay informed of breach announcements and emerging threats more efficiently. Above all, an aggregated cybersecurity news feed enables your organization to spend less time perusing news sites, and more time taking preventative measures to safeguard your business.

#2: Make it second nature

The best way to uphold regular, predictable human behavior is to make it habitual. If you want your team to be cyber-aware and react to threats intelligently, your best bet is to instill best practices into your organization’s culture and policies such that your team’s cybersecurity reflexes are instinctual and primed.

Remove any doubt on how to handle certain situations and manage expectations with company-wide technology and data use policies. Remember, the organization looks to leadership to set the tone for the company, so it’s crucial that your leaders model expected behaviors and practices for all to emulate.

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#3: Make it personal

Sometimes, it can be difficult for individual employees to take cybersecurity seriously, assuming threats likely wouldn’t impact them or their organization directly.  It’s important to educate your team on the far-reaching implications of a security breach, including how a corporate cyber-incident can very quickly affect someone’s personal life (and vice versa), especially if an employee is conducting work-related activities on their personal devices, allowing threat actors access to your network. While organizations risk their reputations, business continuity, and compliance, individuals might become a victim of identity theft, suffer financial losses, or even lose their jobs as a result of a breach.

Conversely, some people find it motivating to learn that cybersecurity isn’t just the responsibility of the IT department; rather, each and every employee at an organization must play a part in upholding their cybersecurity posture. After all, all it takes is one errant click on a phishing email, and the organization could be significantly compromised. By communicating that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility that the entire team carries, individuals realize they don’t want to be the missing link in their team of cyber-defenders.

#4: Make it fun!

Let’s face it — people pay attention and perk up when things are FUN! Yes, cybersecurity is a serious matter, yet that doesn’t mean you can’t appeal to your team’s sense of humor and “fun side.” Try posting engaging visual reminders and tips throughout your office in high trafficked areas to keep cybersecurity top of mind, or sharpen employee skills with ongoing awareness videos that give security lessons a Hollywood flare. The next time a phishing email appears in their inbox, they’ll be that much more likely to envision that poster they just saw on their way to the break room and avoid taking risky actions.

From Human Error to Human Firewall

Human error might run rampant in organizations, but the risk of a security breach caused by these types of mistakes greatly reduces with regular education and awareness around cyber threats. By taking a human approach to cybersecurity awareness education and training, you can increase the likelihood that the learnings actually stick, become habit, and are taken seriously to reduce human error and its associated risks.

More resources to prevent security breaches caused by human error:

Resources & insights

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