Security Awareness Training: Preventing Data Breaches Driven by Human Error
What would you say if asked to name the top threat to your organization’s security? You might recall a cybersecurity incident you’ve read about or a malware program you’ve heard of in passing. While those can undoubtedly be threats, the answer is likely sitting right next to you: it’s another human being.
We know—it’s wild, right? Your employees aren’t trying to do anything malicious; they’re just completely oblivious about how easy it is for experienced hackers to access your company’s data simply by clicking on the wrong thing in an email or opening up a file.
We all get those emails trying to phish us for information, and if we click on them or hand over data over the phone, we’re making our organizations vulnerable to breach.
A recent IT and security professionals survey found that 82% of respondents agreed that negligent insiders or careless employees were their company’s top security risk. In fact, the majority of respondents said that as many as half of their organization’s security incidents could be attributed to human error—yikes!
Stats and Facts: How Human Error Creates Security Risks
According to a recent Stanford University study, human error is still the primary cause of the vast majority of cybersecurity concerns.
- around 88% of data breaches are the result of an employee error
- almost 45% of survey respondents indicated distraction as the primary reason they fell for a phishing scam
- when working from home, 57% of remote workers say they are more prone to getting distracted
- roughly 50% of employees responded that they’d made an error at work that resulted in a security breach for their firm
- 49% of employees admitted to password sharing with coworkers
- 50% of respondents admitted to sharing their work-issued laptops with family or friends
- 85% of office managers admitted loosening cybersecurity controls to allow workers to work remotely
- the perceived authenticity of the email (43%) and the fact that it appeared to have come from a senior executive (41%) or a well-known brand are the primary reasons for clicking on phishing emails
“Your employees are focused on the job for which you hired them, and when they are confronted with daily to-do lists, diversions, and the pressure to complete tasks quickly, cognitive pressures become overwhelming, and errors flourish,” concluded the report.
So, What is Security Awareness Training, and Does it Help?
Security awareness training is a must-have for all businesses today. Its primary goal is to educate employees about proper cyber hygiene, the security risks associated with their behaviors, and how to recognize cyberattacks via email and the web.
Data security risks can come from anywhere, but they most commonly arise from user behavior. Downloading malware or opening an infected attachment, falling prey to a phishing attack, and unwittingly sharing sensitive information with an unauthorized person are just a few examples of user behaviors that may result in a data breach.
You can improve your business’s overall security posture by adequately educating employees about these risks and their responsibilities within the organization’s data protection framework.
What Topics are Typically Covered in Training?
There are so many different threats to network security that it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. As a business owner, you’re responsible for protecting your employees, clients, and business from cyberthreats.
While the specific topics covered may vary from one organization to another, most security awareness programs cover similar types of threats and best practices for avoiding them.
You can help ensure that your employees understand the risks they face while handling sensitive data and are prepared to protect that data against potential threats by addressing these nine essential topics during your security awareness training program.
- phishing: this is when a cybercriminal poses as someone your employees know, tricking them into giving up their passwords or other sensitive information
- social engineering: when a cybercriminal uses social tactics to get employees to give up passwords or install malware
- malware: malicious software that can infect your company’s devices or servers, allowing a cybercriminal to take control of those devices’
- passwords: this includes ensuring that passwords are strong, not reused across accounts, and stored securely (if at all)
- use of portable devices: includes ensuring that mobile devices are encrypted so that if they’re stolen, the data on them cannot be accessed by the person who stole them
- physical access: ensuring that only personnel with the appropriate clearance can enter areas where sensitive data is kept or accessed (like server rooms). It also includes ensuring that no one follows an employee into a room without proper clearance (tailgating)
- data destruction: this involves guaranteeing that data is destroyed properly before being discarded so that it cannot be recovered and used for malicious purposes
- encryption: all data must be encrypted before it’s stored or sent over a network. This will help prevent unauthorized access by hackers or other malicious sources
- data breach: data breaches occur when an employee (hopefully unintentionally) releases information about your organization’s customers or operations into someone else’s hands
Key takeaway: Every employee needs to know precisely what protocols are in place if a data breach occurs. That way, if something does ensue, everyone will be able to react quickly and efficiently.
Awareness Security Training: Six Fundamental Advantages
With cyberattacks on the rise, business leaders tasked with safeguarding their organizations are constantly evaluating technologies that can improve security across the board.
Standard managed security controls in an organization’s IT ecosystem include firewalls, antivirus software, email security, and similar items. While these technologies undoubtedly provide much-needed protection against cyberthreats, there is one aspect of cybersecurity that many businesses overlook—with human error accounting for nearly 90% of all data breaches, security awareness training is critical.
Here are six benefits an excellent security awareness training program has to offer:
1. Boosts Employee Awareness
Security awareness training empowers employees to be more aware of cybersecurity threats and how to avoid them. By providing employees with the know-how they need to identify potential hazards and respond accordingly, security awareness training boosts an organization’s overall cyber defenses.
2. Reduces Vulnerabilities
Because human error is often at the root of many data breaches, companies must take the necessary steps to minimize the risks posed by their employees. Security awareness training helps reduce these vulnerabilities by educating employees on improving their cybersecurity practices and habits both in and out of the workplace. This helps keep your organization safe from malicious cyberattacks and internal mistakes that could potentially lead to a breach.
3. Minimize Downtime
If a data breach or other security matter transpires, fixing and restoring routine corporate operations can be costly and quite time-draining. There’s a far less chance of significant downtime caused by a cyber assault if your staff is familiar with basic cybersecurity principles and comprehends their role in keeping your firm secure.
4. Provides a Significant ROI
When you calculate how much developing and implementing a quality security awareness program will cost versus the potential losses incurred due to a data breach or cyberattack, it’s clear that investing in security is the smart thing to do. Plus, safe business environments have been proven to earn more loyal customers, increase employee retention, and save on new equipment costs.
5. Strengthen Customer Confidence
These days, consumers are becoming more conscious of cybersecurity threats. Hence, businesses must respond by implementing tools and technology to establish their cyber resiliency and boost customer confidence. Routine security awareness training is one tool that every organization should have in its toolbox to guarantee every employee is following security best practices. Customers will be keener to do business with you if they see that you are proactive in your cybersecurity procedures.
6. Meet Regulatory Compliance
User awareness security training will also help in achieving compliance with HIPAA and CMMC.
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We live in the digital age, where cybercriminals are using a variety of new and sophisticated cyberattacks to steal, disrupt, or destroy any sensitive data they can find. Without the proper shields in place, a single cyberattack could put you out of business for good.
Many of these attacks can easily be prevented with proper cybersecurity training and systems. But not everyone has the time to become an expert on cybersecurity or the budget to hire an in-house IT expert that can help.
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