Despite cybersecurity taking place in a digital landscape, much of it relies on people and their physical interactions with devices and how they conduct themselves in their office, at home, and out in public in regards to securing their data.
People are not only the weakest vulnerability when it comes to data, but they can also be the first line of defense in protecting a network—so long as they are properly educated and empowered to handle cybersecurity processes and protocols.
Despite years of ongoing teaching and training, 35% of data breaches still are attributed to human error or negligence.
It’s far easier to manipulate a person into voluntarily giving up sensitive info, such as passwords or login user names, than brute-force hacking a network. If hackers can gain identifying data that gives them access to secure networks, then they can wreak much more havoc and do more damage before their unauthorized presence is even detected.
Types of cybersecurity threats that target people specifically include phishing, vishing, smishing, and social engineering. A single wrong click on a fraudulent email link can expose a whole computer and the network it’s connected to to criminal activity and data theft.
How to Combat Personal Cybercrime
One of the biggest ways to protect against cybercrime is awareness and proactive reporting. Many people struggle to identify legitimate emails from phishing attempts, but if they’re informed about key elements of phishing and other scams, then they’re more likely to hesitate before clicking on an offered link or respond with vital data, double-checking that they’re using secured channel or confirming the identity of the person who is claiming to communicate with them.
Ongoing training is critical to keep employees aware of the threats, help them understand reporting protocols for any suspected activity, and know how to quickly contain potential cyberattacks and minimize the damage if any exposure is created.
Employees at all levels of a company have at least some small responsibility to be alert to cybersecurity threats and understand corporate response plans.
Specific Employee Strategies
Certain staff will be more directly involved with cybersecurity efforts than efforts, but everyone within a company should still be capable of properly detecting and reacting to cyberattacks. Here’s a breakdown of several key business roles and how they relate to cybersecurity:
As with many aspects of the corporate culture, the CEO will set the tone that the rest of the business and staff take when it comes to handling cybersecurity. If the CEO is informed and active in defending against cybercrime, then the rest of the corporation will better follow suit! Establishing a culture of proactive cybersecurity is a critical element of the executive role, and a CEO should strive to maintain core knowledge about the current cybersecurity landscape, understand their most valuable information assets, and delegate the resources necessary to protect them at all costs.
CEOs should also ensure that cybersecurity training programs are implemented and followed at all business levels, and oversee independent cybersecurity risk assessment to evaluate and pinpoint vulnerabilities and respond accordingly. Documenting and testing data disaster response and recovery plans can also fall under the CEOS purview, depending on the business size and scope.
- IT Manager - In the Trenches
Many cybersecurity tasks and responsibilities fall squarely in the lap (and on the shoulders) of a company’s IT manager and IT staff. The IT manager is usually the company’s go-to expert and authority on all things cybersecurity, including protection, detection, response, and recovery efforts. Specific responsibilities will certainly vary depending on the size of a business and the industry, as well as the IT team itself and the resources available to it.
The IT manager should be involved in direct oversight of data monitoring and cybersecurity management. They must be constantly analyzing their cybercrime defense protocols and maintain all implemented security tools and technology solutions—or recognize gaps in the defensive planning and discover the proper solution to enact.
Alongside establishing plans and programs for cybersecurity measures, the IT manager then must ensure compliance within the company. After all, what good is a detect and defend plan if no one actually follows it in the face of a hacking attack or data breach?
Other duties involve risk reduction, policy audits, and continuously evolving the current data protection plan to refine how quickly and thoroughly a company can respond to a digital attack.
- Remote Workers - Virtual Vulnerabilities
With the increasing globalization of the workforce, it’s more common for at least a portion of company employees to work offsite at least a couple days of the week, if not full-time. Remote workers, however, while allowing for a more flexible team, also introduce a level of cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities that must be addressed.
Because remote workers are not hardwired into a corporate network, the data that’s being transferred between the virtual employee and the company is more susceptible to being intercepted, hacked, and exploited.
Companies can help secure remote employees through a variety of techniques. First is providing them with devices that are preloaded with security protocols and can only connect to corporate-approved networks. Discourage the use of personal devices or the transfer/storage of data to and from such for convenience’s sake.
Ensure remote employees are aware of the threats posed by security risks such as unsecure wifi networks, bluetooth connections, and even basic “shoulder surfing” while working in public. Of course, if devices are ever lost or stolen, remote workers should immediately report this so access via those computers or phones can be cut off.
With people being the largest vulnerable element of any cybersecurity plan, it stands to reason that Human Resources staff play an important role in handling corporate cybersecurity compliance. HR staff and managers can be particularly targeted by hackers and cybercriminals because of the highly sensitive nature of the data they handle on a regular basis—such as employee profiles, salary and financial documentation, and security and privacy policies.
HR managers not only provide necessary motivation to keep employees compliance with cybersecurity regulations and protocols, but also are on the front line when it comes to protecting internal company resources from criminal activity. An HR manager often determines what employees have access to various portions of the company network, who gets security clearance, and who even has access to the buildings where the data is stored. They’re often the ones responsible for documenting cybersecurity plans and reporting data breaches without causing further exposure to employee privacy.
And, of course, HR should be equipped to review internal network and device use by employees to make sure staff are following best policies and not allowing breaches to occur through negligence or oversight.