Human error is a major contributing factor to company data breaches. More than 340 million people may already have been affected by a data breach in the first four months of 2023. With cybercrime rates soaring around the world, it’s clearly an area where investment and expertise are required.
While updating laptops with the latest antimalware software and setting up workers with complex passwords, two-factor authentication (2FA) for email access, and a secure VPN are all good practices, the real investment is in educating employees. Here’s why:
A team is only as good as its weakest link
Knowledge is power, after all, and a team can only be as good as its weakest link. For the risks of cybersecurity to a company to be taken seriously, they need to be understood by everyone. Although most may have heard of, or recognise, an obviously fraudulent email, a more sophisticated phishing email could easily slip through the cracks and get a click from an employee who is simply unaware of the potential impact that one email could have.
Spotting a legitimate lead from a phishing email could mean the difference between making a key contact and revealing sensitive company information – the latter of which can be extremely costly. Investing in professional interactive training courses and even conducting regular cyber attack simulation tests can ensure that everyone is armed with more advanced cybersecurity knowledge, which can be a great asset to a business. Not only will it highlight the dangers of malware and other types of cyber threats, but it will also forge a sense of community and accountability, which in itself can strengthen security measures.
What’s more, if you do have a cybersecurity team in place, aligning the entire business on basic protection measures is a great way to support them. If everyone is switched on to identify potential threats and is ready to highlight them to key cybersecurity contacts, it could lessen their load and give them much-needed insight to stay one step ahead of threats to the business.
Every business is a target
Money is almost always the driving incentive behind a cybercrime effort, and whether it’s a small local charity or a multinational finance business, everyone is at the mercy of cybercriminals. The past few years of soaring data breach rates have actually seen more small businesses investing in their cybersecurity, and rightly so. It’s not just traditional, office-based companies that are at risk; any place that offers walk-in services, such as department stores, all have computer systems and phones, and they are all vulnerable to cyber-attacks of some sort.
Ransomware attacks, for example, could victimise a children's school just as it could a much bigger and more financially viable business. So, companies should not refrain from employee education, even in smaller set-ups, as they are often easier targets for malicious hackers. The reason for this is that a smaller business may spend less money on securing systems or rely more on third-party software, which can be more vulnerable to threats. These are the kind of vulnerabilities cybercriminals are likely to target, so making sure everyone has their wits about them can make a huge difference.
Time is money
Getting everyone trained on suspected cyberattacks means that companies can speed up their reaction time to contain and act on incidents. Usually, when a company notices malicious behaviour on internal systems, its own cyber security team will try to contain the incident, or it will hire external cyber specialists to run diagnostics and understand what caused the breach. Either way, alerting those who need to step in as early as possible can be a pivotal move to help a company mitigate the damage of a cyber attack.
The longer a data breach goes unnoticed, the more difficult it may be to get under control and fix. And the more damage is done, the more expensive the case. For example, if an incident goes undetected for months, it could leak information about thousands or millions of people. Depending on the detail, the company at fault for unsecured systems or failure to act appropriately may be liable to a fine. It can also have a knock-on effect on consumer trust and affect the company’s reputation in the long run.
Cyber-attacks are becoming more elaborate, and outsmarting threat actors is essential for future protection across industries. Enforcing stronger security measures is one thing, but educating employees can also be pivotal for earlier identification of threats. Communication is key, as is forging a sense of trust and freedom to fail amongst employees also. The world is still learning, and if an employee opens a document only to then realise they shouldn’t have, they should feel supported and comfortable enough to alert the right team so the right steps can be taken to fix the situation.
Humans are almost always a part of cybercrime, and investing in the people that form a company is essential to harness better security measures.
About the Author:
Camille Dubuis-Welch is an experienced writer and editor who has been creating content for a number of years. She’s worked for Groupon and its partnerships – including The Guardian UK and US, the HuffPost, and Today.com – and has covered a plethora of topics, from kitchen design trends to home insurance. Currently, she is busy staying up to date with data breaches and cybercrime around the world, as well as advising others on how to be more eco-friendly with renewable energy sources and clever home additions.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire.