Whilst it’s easy to assume cybersecurity breaches are a technology issue, the main culprit is human error. Even with an increase in security investment over the past decade, companies still face an onslaught of cyberattacks.
No matter what anybody tells you, nobody is perfect (yes, even you George Clooney!). We all make mistakes, and we all have odd moments of error. But errors resulting in cybersecurity breaches can have disastrous consequences for all involved.
Verizon’s 2022 Data Breaches Investigations Report concluded that 82% of data breaches involved a human element. Whether through lack of awareness or negligence, employees and contractors at all levels can make a mistake.
Most errors are made without realizing how dangerous they can be for cybersecurity. Whether it’s clicking on a link, downloading, or simple misconfiguration, these everyday mistakes can lead to system and operational disruption.
A simple wrong click can snowball into an escalating concern. And with over 65% of companies being targeted twice a year with cyberattacks, these mistakes need to be addressed to cut their impact. Organizations must take the relevant steps to educate their employees and mitigate these mistakes.
As businesses suffer severe cybersecurity breaches, sensitive data can be exposed to the digital sphere. Let’s take an in-depth look at six key human error behaviors and what they could mean for your business.
What is human error in cybersecurity?
It’s no secret that cyber-threats are a blotch on our digital landscape. Despite recent global efforts and AI technology solutions, the number of cybersecurity breaches continues to grow. In this unnerving statistic, it’s reported that cybercriminals can penetrate 93% of company networks.
This is why cybersecurity should be a top priority for most businesses. No matter the industry, cybercriminals can access private and sensitive data. Even with enhanced modern anti-malware and threat detection software, cybercriminals know their effectiveness depends on the system’s users.
Human error can manifest in a myriad of ways. It plays such a significant role in cybersecurity that addressing it head-on could deter vulnerabilities instantly. The issue is that human error is not a simple problem to fix.
Hackers find and exploit even the simplest forms of human errors. Whilst it’s easy to pinpoint how an error was made, the hard part is understanding why it was made in the first place.
Cybercriminals are driven by financial motives to amass data collection. Data infiltration can occur at any part of a company’s life cycle, making continuous testing in DevOps crucial for security success.
The constant threat of data infiltration looms over employees’ heads daily. Whilst this can have a positive effect on individual security measures, it can make it easier for cybercriminals to succeed. Their constant interference will take a toll on employee decision-making capabilities.
These instances of human error can be categorized into two different types:
If you’ve ever had a role that consisted of repetition, you would have been susceptible to skill-based human errors. By nature, repetitive tasks can lead to a lack of attention, which in turn can lead to small mistakes. These small mistakes are referred to as skill-based errors.
Skill-based human errors consist of small mistakes that involve temporary lapses of judgment. These mistakes can occur due to tiredness, distraction, and repetition. Even though they are small, these occurrences can be disastrous.
The environment can lead to many skill-based errors too. Privacy, noise level, and even temperature can all be contributing factors. Employees know the correct course of action, but these factors can lead to an error.
Whilst skill-based errors are temporary oversights, decision-based errors are flawed employee decisions. These faulty decisions often involve users not having enough training on a specific scenario. Or, in many cases, using inaction as a response rather than making a decision.
This is what makes training an essential part of cybersecurity. Companies cannot expect employees to have the relevant information on security at their disposal. It’s up to the organization to keep employees informed and up-to-date.
Imagine if you were working for a video chat app that hadn’t provided the necessary level of privacy knowledge. This lack of awareness would increase the chances of a breach, through no fault of your own.
6 examples of human errors
Organizations pride themselves on machine learning and AI capabilities. However, their biggest asset is people. By providing effective training, the rate of human error will decline.
Let’s take a look at some examples of human errors in our digital landscape.
The goal of today’s phishing attack landscape is to lure individuals into providing sensitive data. This includes passwords, user information, and banking details. Hackers tailor their scams using advanced psychology tricks.
Email and spear phishing are the two most common types of scams. Email phishing involves hackers creating emails that impersonate legitimate companies. Email subject lines will include words or phrases such as “urgent” with a link inside for the user to click.
Spear phishing is more commonly found in the workplace. Attackers use email messages that are more personal and thus more likely to be opened. Hackers find ways to imitate trustworthy colleagues or even a boss to obtain specific pieces of valuable data.
Due to the nature of the fast-paced office environment, employees sometimes engage with emails that shouldn’t be opened. But rather than risk falling behind, the need to respond is too great to ignore.
Phishing scams are the most common example of human error. It’s why many companies are investing in sentiment analysis to provide rich customer insight.
Using weak passwords
You may be surprised to learn that the most popular password in the world is “123456”. This frightening statistic may explain why password management practices should become essential within the workplace.
Passwords are the front line of cybersecurity defense. Selecting a weak and easy-to-remember password gives attackers easy access to private information. Companies that introduce clear rules and two-factor authentication will reinforce additional security measures.
Besides creating weak passwords, employees make the mistake of storing passwords unreliably. Many employees keep passwords out in the open or on paper. Whether leaving notes on their desks or storing them on their computer, passwords can be easily retrieved.
Unlike VoIP phone number new zealand that use encryption to secure calls, unencrypted messages sent between colleagues can be easily exploited.
New digital features are being established every day. From auto-suggest to file sharing, easy-to-navigate applications simplify employee productivity. Unfortunately, this simplicity can lead to many cybersecurity breaches.
Auto-suggest in particular makes it easy to send emails to the wrong recipient. If the misdirected email includes customer information, the organization will have to inform those involved in the breach. This can then affect customer confidence and relationships.
Depending on privacy laws, companies will have to report the data breach to regulators, and a fine may be issued.
Imagine if Dialpad’s call recording feature accidentally shared a customer interaction with the wrong person. The legal repercussions of such an action would be huge, damaging any further chance of success down the line.
Cybercriminals constantly look for weaknesses in software. Once a weakness is spotted, a race between attackers and software developers ensues. The longer the weakness remains vulnerable, the longer hackers have to infiltrate.
When the software issue is resolved, a patch is sent to all company employees. The patch has the solution to the problem and will need to be updated immediately by the recipient. If it’s not, cybercriminals can continue to exploit their internal vulnerabilities.
Whilst it is easy to blame software issues, human error bears the brunt of the blame. Many users will delay the security update until the end of the day to avoid the update interfering with their workload. This leaves the company infrastructure open to attack for the whole working day.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused employees to move to their homes. Though this move resulted in a better work–life balance for some, it also opened the doors to remote desktop vulnerabilities.
Working from home can bring many difficulties to cybersecurity policies. Sending data over unsecured Wi-Fi leaves companies open to attack. Furthermore, remote work relies heavily on online messaging, which causes phishing scams to raise its ugly head.
Employees may have the option to use their own devices during remote work. This can lead to unscanned devices which may or may not be breached. There is also the problem of ex-employees having confidential data stored on their devices, which can make them susceptible to an easy attack.
Poor employee habits
As with repetition, employees can develop bad habits that are hard to shake. Becoming too comfortable can cause issues with even the simplest of tasks. As the famous quote says, familiarity breeds complacency, through no fault of the employee.
Common negligent habits include leaving a computer unlocked, sharing passwords, and leaving sensitive information on paper for all to see. Confidential printouts can be forgotten, and public Wi-Fi can be accessed without a VPN.
Files can be shared via even more unsecured means, such as personal text messages and emails, meaning that online security is a result of external sources rather than an internal organization.
Even with the increase in security measures and operations, errors are still going to occur. These cybersecurity breaches cost organizations not only money, but also their reputation.
And as we all know, a good reputation leads to success. If we take the example of a salon business, the best way to boost online bookings is reputation and word-of-mouth.
Humans don’t have to be the weakest link. By promoting education via discussions and constant reminders, employees are more likely to be kept aware. It will also encourage them to continue the best practices of keeping their workplace safe.
About the Author
Gerard D’Onofrio – Country Manager, Australia, Dialpad
Gerard D’Onofrio is the Country Manager for Dialpad Australia. Dialpad VoIP is an AI-equipped business communications solutions platform for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Gerard D’Onofrio also published articles for domains such as BizCover. Here is his LinkedIn.