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As a discerning business leader, you know the complexities involved with your IT infrastructure. You know the importance of maintaining a strong digital presence not only for your daily operations, but also for the myriad cyber threats ready to pounce from the shadows to profit from your valuable data.

So you make smart decisions. You invest in managed IT services and state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures to build up and lock down your technology like Fort Knox. But the weakest link often isn’t sophisticated malware or advanced hacking techniques, but rather human fallibility. 

A Stanford University study revealed nearly 90% of all cybersecurity breaches stem from human error. Here we discuss the prevalence of human error in cybersecurity, while also exploring preventive solutions and corrective responses in the aftermath of an attack.

Understanding Human Error in Cybersecurity

Human error in cybersecurity could range from gross negligence to innocent mistakes. A team member – or even you – could potentially send sensitive information to the wrong recipient. Your secretary could fall victim to a phishing attack by simply clicking a link that looked legitimate. 

(That’s why we strongly suggest regular cybersecurity training for ALL professional offices.)

The consequences are severe, leading to data breaches, loss of intellectual property, and the propagation of malware. 

Common Types of Cybersecurity Mistakes

  • Weak Password Security: Passwords are a fundamental aspect of cybersecurity, yet their mishandling remains a prevalent issue. From using simple, easily guessable passwords to sharing them among employees, these errors open the door to unauthorized access.
  • Careless Handling of Data: Employees working with large amounts of data can inadvertently compromise sensitive information. Mistakes such as sending data to the wrong person via email or accidentally deleting critical files pose significant risks.
  • Inadequate Software Security Management: Neglecting software updates and intentionally disabling security features for the sake of convenience can leave systems vulnerable to attacks.
  • Low Security Awareness: Lack of awareness about phishing and social engineering practices can cause employees to unintentionally aid malicious agents in accessing company data.
  • Ineffective Data Access Management: Granting excessive privileges and performing unauthorized system changes can result in accidental data leaks and disruptions to regular business procedures.

The Threat of Human Error in Cybersecurity: How We Mess Up

One of the most prevalent mistakes is the inadvertent sharing of sensitive documents. However, employing security controls to monitor and restrict the flow of sensitive information can significantly mitigate this risk. Technological solutions can also prevent users from engaging in inappropriate behaviors, such as sharing documents via email or placing them on insecure platforms.

Preventive Efforts to Improve Cybersecurity

  • Create an Efficient & Strict Cybersecurity Policy: Establish clear guidelines regarding password management, data handling and software usage. This policy should be regularly updated to address evolving cybersecurity threats. You may also go a step further and proactively hunt for cyber threats to shut them down before they become an issue.
  • Regular Employee Education: Conduct monthly security awareness training sessions to keep employees informed about the latest cybersecurity threats, emphasizing the importance of their role in maintaining a secure environment.
  • Use the Principle of Least Privilege: Restrict data access to only those employees who require it for their tasks. Regularly monitor and adjust access permissions to minimize the risk of accidental data leaks.
  • Utilize Technology to Safeguard Against External Threats: Employ advanced cybersecurity technologies to protect against external factors that exploit individual users. This includes deploying controls to monitor and prevent the inadvertent sharing of sensitive data.
  • Combine People, Processes & Technology: Recognize that an effective cybersecurity strategy involves a holistic approach that includes well-defined processes, advanced technologies, and ongoing employee awareness training.

Addressing the Aftermath: Fixing a Cybersecurity Breach Caused by Human Error

Even with the most robust preventive measures, the reality is that human errors can sometimes lead to cybersecurity breaches. When faced with such a situation, a swift and effective response is crucial to mitigate the damages. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to fix a cybersecurity breach caused by human error:

Identify & Isolate the Breach

  • Audit System Logs: Thoroughly examine system logs to trace the origin and extent of the breach.
  • Isolate Affected Systems: Immediately isolate compromised systems to prevent further damage and unauthorized access.

Assess the Damage

  • Determine Data Compromised: Identify the specific data or information that has been exposed or compromised.
  • Evaluate Impact: Assess the potential impact on your organization, clients and stakeholders.

Contain the Breach

  • Patch Vulnerabilities: Address any vulnerabilities that were exploited. This may involve applying security patches, updating software or strengthening access controls.
  • Change Credentials: If the breach involved compromised credentials, enforce a company-wide password reset.

Communication & Transparency

  • Internal Communication: Inform internal stakeholders, including employees, about the breach. Provide clear instructions on any immediate actions they need to take.
  • External Communication: If customer or client data is involved, adhere to legal and regulatory requirements for data breach notifications. Maintain transparency to build trust.

Forensic Analysis

  • Digital Forensics: Conduct a detailed digital forensic analysis to understand how the breach occurred and if there are any lingering threats.
  • Learn from the Incident: Use the findings to enhance cybersecurity protocols and educate employees on the specific nature of the breach.

Recovery & Restoration:

  • Data Recovery: If data has been lost, attempt to recover it from backups or other sources.
  • System Restoration: Restore affected systems to a secure state, ensuring that all security measures are in place.

Reinforce Security Measures:

  • Enhance Security Protocols: Strengthen security protocols based on lessons learned from the breach.
  • Employee Training: Provide additional training to employees, focusing on the specific type of error that led to the breach.

24/7 Monitoring

  • Implement Continuous Monitoring: Set up systems for continuous monitoring to detect any unusual activities promptly.
  • Incident Response Plan: Review and update your organization’s incident response plan based on insights gained from the breach.

Legal & Compliance Actions

  • Legal Consultation: Seek legal advice to ensure compliance with data protection laws and regulations.
  • Documentation: Keep detailed records of the incident, actions taken and communications made for legal and compliance purposes.

Post-Incident Analysis

  • Post-Mortem Analysis: Conduct a post-incident analysis to understand the overall effectiveness of the response and areas for improvement.

Partner with Acme Business for Robust Managed IT & Cybersecurity

A Vormetric report highlights that a substantial portion of IT security threats arise from insiders making honest and simple mistakes, rather than intentional abuse of privileges. Regardless of the source, human error in cybersecurity is something that must be prepared for intently. As an executive, it’s your responsibility to put the resources in place and oversee the implementation of your organization’s cybersecurity profile.  

Remember, the aftermath of a cybersecurity breach is a critical period, and a well-executed response can significantly minimize the impact. For ongoing support and to fortify your organization against future breaches, consider leveraging the expertise of Acme Business Solutions. Our managed IT and cybersecurity services are tailored to enhance your cybersecurity posture and provide peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

Call Acme Business at (716) 372-1325 and connect with us on LinkedIn.