The story of the Newcastle City Council exposing the personal data of thousands of adopted children in a wrong email attachment highlights a sad truth: no organization, no matter how big or small, is immune to human error. Just like outsider attacks, mistakes can ruin your reputation, damage operations, and maybe even take your company out of the game. What’s more, governments around the world have made sure that reporting data breaches is mandatory.
In such a landscape, anxious business owners have grasped cybersecurity technologies as if it was a safety ring. However, there’s a little problem with that. When it comes to protecting employees from themselves and their own flaws, traditional security methods such as malware detection, antiviruses, and firewalls provide little help. So here is what you need to know about human errors and how to tackle them.
What Causes Human Errors?
Stress, negligence, and confusion
A lot of mistakes are made when employees are under pressure, have many deadlines to meet, and constantly do repetitive tasks. So in the routine of their stressful day, people are likely to get confused, act irrationally or impulsively, and do something they shouldn’t — such as sending the wrong file or inadvertently selecting a different recipient than intended due to extensive contact lists or highly similar names.
Social engineering tactics
But besides stress and time pressure, business owners should also be worried about malicious external forces that can prompt staff to make mistakes. Cybercriminals might leverage the goodwill of employees through various social engineering tactics such as pretexting or baiting. Another frequently used technique today is spearphishing, where outsiders attempt to impersonate someone high in the hierarchy and manipulate subordinates with spoofed email addresses.
For example, through communications appearing credible at first sight, hackers may require staff members to send out personal data or make an urgent money transfer. In many cases, people fall for such scams because they feel the pressing need to comply with the demands of their “superiors.”
Working remotely from home, in the park next door, or in one’s favorite coffee shop has become well-accepted in many organizations. But despite the added convenience, dangers waylay outside traditional office spaces where phones and computers containing sensitive data are more likely to get lost or stolen. And should these fall into the wrong hands, data breaches often are inevitable.
Additionally, companies may allow employees to use their own device for work, but typically personal pieces of hardware are not as safe as corporate ones since they cannot be easily wiped out remotely without a good BYOD program in place.
How to Prevent Human Errors?
Give clear security guidelines
First things first, make sure you establish must-do behaviors within your team. These should include a strong password policy, safe data transfer rules, corporate and personal devices protection, and precautions when working remotely — no device should be left unattended!
Do security awareness
Effective security starts with teaching hackers and scammers’ tricks. To do that, you can spread the knowledge about major cyber threats through training and awareness programs. An easy way to go about it is with online modules about fraud detection and red flags such as web-based free email accounts, urgent requests, odd URLs or domains, and dubious attachments.
Implement error prevention technology
Through technology, you can create extra steps for users. For example, you can require employees to double check addresses or attachments before sending emails using a confirmation window. That functionality can be supplemented by file scanning capabilities that allow verifying whether a document contains credit card details, social security numbers, or other personally identifiable information. Error prevention software can also reduce the risk of successful phishing attacks by letting employees know when it’s the first time they interact with a specific sender.
Human errors, in business settings or elsewhere, are inevitable as it’s in our nature to make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it from a cybersecurity standpoint. You can still take better control of the situation with clear policies, security awareness, and error prevention tech.