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Safeguard your business against cyber attacks caused by human error

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a dedicated month for the public and private sectors to work together to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. This year’s theme is how to keep yourself cyber safe.

As the world becomes more reliant on digital technology, businesses, both large and small, face a growing risk of cyber attacks. A frequent weak point that attackers target is mistakes made by employees. This blog will outline effective strategies to keep your business safe.

Human error is an ever-present risk in cybersecurity. Whether it’s clicking on a suspicious link, falling victim to a phishing scam, or inadvertently sharing sensitive information, employees can unintentionally open the door to cyber threats.

IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023 revealed that attempts to hijack threads in emails doubled in 2022 from the 2021 data, which highlights that cybercriminals are exploiting the human error factor within a system. The research also showed that ransomware was the most common attack, accounting for 17% of all incidents. Phishing emerged as the preferred choice for cybercriminals, with over 40% of all attacks employing this deceptive tactic.

Cyber attack cases due to human error

Victims felt the pressure in 27% of cyber attacks. This is why cybercriminals often focus on their extortion efforts. One notable example of such extortion tactics was demonstrated by the digital extortion gang Lapsus$ in early 2022. This group, which had surfaced in December, launched an extensive hacking spree, targeting high-profile and sensitive companies like Nvidia, Samsung, and Ubisoft.

They stole valuable source code and data and leaked it as part of their apparent extortion schemes. Their spree peaked in March when Lapsus$ announced its successful breaches of Microsoft Bing and Cortana source code. The group also compromised a contractor who had access to the widely used authentication service Okta. These attackers, suspected to be based in the United Kingdom and South America, primarily relied on phishing attacks to gain entry into their targets’ systems.

In February 2021, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest and renowned venture capital firms, Sequoia Capital, was hacked. This occurred due to human error. The hackers were able to access the company’s investors’ financial and personal information. The attack succeeded after one of the company’s employees was victim to a phishing email.

In August 2019, Toyota Boshoku Corporation, a subsidiary of Toyota Group in Europe, suffered a massive attack that cost the company almost $40 million. The attackers used a fraudulent fund transfer to steal from the company. They were able to use the funds after posing as a business partner. The hackers then sent phishing emails to the finance and accounting departments of the company.

Effective strategies to combat cyber attacks and human error

Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated. As IBM’s report showed, human error remains a significant vulnerability. To safeguard your company’s sensitive data and maintain your reputation, it’s imperative to implement robust cybersecurity measures such as:

1. Comprehensive employee training

The first line of defense against cyber threats is a well-informed workforce. Provide your employees with thorough training on cybersecurity best practices. This should encompass recognizing phishing attempts, understanding password hygiene, and staying updated on the latest threats. Regular workshops and seminars can go a long way in keeping your staff vigilant.

2. Strong password policies

Weak or easily guessable passwords are an open invitation to cybercriminals. Encourage the use of complex passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to add an extra layer of security.

3. Regular software updates

Neglecting software updates can leave your organization vulnerable to cyber threats. Outdated software often contains known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit. To mitigate this risk, make it a standard practice to ensure that all your applications and systems have the latest security patches. Whenever possible, automate this process to reduce the chance of human error or oversight. By staying up-to-date, you not only enhance security but also benefit from improved software performance and functionality.

4. Robust Firewall and EDR/MDR

A reputable firewall paired with an EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) or MDR (Managed Detection and Response) solution can help strengthen your prevention and response posture . These tools provide continuous monitoring of network traffic, detecting, and promptly addressing malicious activities. Utilize behavioral anomaly detection to identify unusual user behaviors, which can indicate compromised accounts. It’s crucial to maintain and regularly update these security solutions to adapt to your organization’s evolving needs and the ever-changing threat landscape.

5. Data encryption

Sensitive data is cybercriminals’ favorite target, and data breaches can have severe consequences. To protect your critical information, implement encryption protocols. Encryption ensures that data remains indecipherable to unauthorized individuals without the appropriate decryption keys. By applying encryption both in transit (when data is being transmitted between systems) and at rest (when data is stored), you add an extra layer of security.

6. Incident response plan

No organization is immune to security breaches, so it’s vital to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Developing a comprehensive incident response plan helps you outline the steps to take in the event of a security breach. This plan should encompass communication protocols, strategies for containing the incident, and procedures for recovering from it. Being well-prepared minimizes the impact of a breach and demonstrates your commitment to cybersecurity, instilling trust among stakeholders.

7. Regular security audits

Proactive measures are essential to maintain a secure environment. Regularly conducting security audits and penetration testing helps identify vulnerabilities in your systems before cybercriminals can exploit them. Stay ahead of potential threats by identifying weaknesses and addressing them promptly. This proactive approach enhances your overall security posture. This also makes it more difficult for attackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities.

8. Employee accountability

Employees play a crucial role in your organization’s cybersecurity efforts. Hold them accountable for their actions within the digital landscape. Implement user activity monitoring and enforce strict access controls to prevent unauthorized data access. By doing so, you not only reduce the risk of insider threats but also foster a culture of responsibility and security awareness among your workforce. Employees who understand their role in protecting digital assets become valuable allies in the ongoing battle against cyber threats.

9. Vendor security assessment

If your business relies on third-party vendors or cloud services, like Continent 8, assess their security measures rigorously. Ensure they adhere to high cybersecurity standards to prevent potential vulnerabilities throughout your supply chain.

10. Cybersecurity culture

Building a cybersecurity-conscious culture is essential in safeguarding your organization’s digital assets. It involves instilling a sense of vigilance and responsibility in every employee. Encourage all team members to proactively identify and report any suspicious activities they encounter. Recognize and reward those who diligently follow security protocols, as this reinforces the importance of cybersecurity throughout the organization.

11. Continuous education

Cyber threats evolve rapidly, so it’s crucial to stay informed. Encourage your IT team to prioritize continuous education. This means keeping up-to-date with emerging threats and staying informed about the latest cybersecurity technologies. Investing in ongoing training and professional development empowers your IT professionals to effectively combat new and sophisticated cyberattacks. Knowledge is a powerful defense, and a well-informed team can proactively adapt and strengthen your organization’s security measures.

12. Incident documentation and analysis

When a security incident occurs, responding swiftly and methodically is important. After a security incident, document the event and conduct a thorough analysis. This analysis is a valuable learning tool, enabling your organization to make informed decisions about strengthening its security posture. Implement necessary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future, turning each security breach into an opportunity for growth and improved resilience.


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