Human error is defined as an unintended outcome or consequence of human action. While that may sound harmless, this “error” can have significant ramifications for cybersecurity, costing a business enormous financial and reputational damage.
This article will go through four common ways hackers can and are exploiting staff. It will also suggest easy but effective ways to bridge the gap in cybersecurity and help mitigate these emerging threats.
Four ways hackers can exploit human error
In their 2022 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum found that over 95% of cybersecurity issues can be traced back to human error, suggesting that a business’s main weakness is its employees.
Below are four key human errors that criminals often exploit:
- Setting a weak password
Passwords are the backbone of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, employees often underestimate their importance, allowing hackers to log in, seize control of their accounts, and steal sensitive information.
With the rise in AI technologies, research has shown that hackers can crack common passwords in a fraction of the time it used to take. Employees make it easier by using personal information, repeating passwords for multiple accounts, using common phrases or dictionary words, and making passwords shorter than 12 characters.
- Using outdated software
Every day, new exploits are developed by criminals that target older technologies, providing them with an easy access route into sensitive business systems. Security company Tripwire found that 27% of IT professionals reported their company was breached because of unpatched vulnerabilities in software.
Human error around software updates is complicated because employees often download patches but fail to install them properly. Moreover, employees often fail to realize that personal equipment like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and IoT devices must also be updated.
- Remote working can be a risk factor
In this era of remote working, a significant problem for businesses is balancing employee access with security. After all, employees will need the same level of access at home to perform their duties successfully.
Research from Alliance Virtual Offices found that since the global pandemic, remote workers have become the primary target of cybercriminals, with an astounding 238% increase in the rate of attacks aimed at home. The research showed that workers were further exposing their workplaces by using unsecured networks and allowing people outside their work to use office devices.
- Lack of awareness or training over common cyber threats
All it takes is a single click on a malicious link by an employee to infect a business with devastating malware. Research from CybSafe found that only 1 in 10 workers surveyed could remember all of their cyber security training and that, in many cases, the training provided was infrequent and ineffective.
Without basic cyber security training, employees can be easily deceived into downloading malicious files or sharing private information with strangers. Not only will they expose themselves to greater risks online, but they might also fail to report an attack in sufficient time, thus magnifying the potential damage.
How to promote better cybersecurity at work
Below are simple but effective ways of mitigating human error and safeguarding your business, whether working in the office or at home:
- Create stronger passwords
Creating stronger passwords is one of the easiest and most effective ways of bolstering your business’s defenses. To create stronger passwords, employees should:
- Use longer passwords of at least 12 characters.
- Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid using personal information (like dates of birth).
- Never reuse passwords on multiple accounts and devices.
- Strengthen your connections through a VPN
One way to mitigate remote work risk is by strengthening your connections with innovative security tools like a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it impossible for criminals to monitor online activity and know what files you send or receive.
A VPN can help bolster your cybersecurity because many providers can give you a static IP address, a unique way of identifying your device. Once a business allows this individual IP address, an employee can access sensitive files without compromising security.
- Provide adequate and frequent training.
One way to remedy a lack of training is to upskill staff and improve their confidence when tackling cybersecurity issues. Increase cybersecurity and threat awareness every day.
Two of the most common cyber threats that target employees include:
- Phishing scams are when a criminal impersonates a legitimate person or service via email, SMS, or phone. They aim to trick an employee into sharing sensitive information or downloading a file that will infect their device.
- Malware attacks are when malicious code somehow enters your business systems, stealing, corrupting, and compromising security. It can occur when an employee unknowingly downloads a suspicious file, clicks the links of an infected website, or connects an infected drive (like a personal USB) to a work device.
You can also upskill employees by teaching them the importance of strong passwords, how to scan their devices for viruses, and, most importantly, how to react if they suspect a cyber threat is in motion.
Businesses might consider allowing staff to practice these skills by implementing penetration tests that simulate a cyberattack and challenge staff to practice their skills.