Human Factor in Cybersecurity: The Weakest Link?
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Human Factor in Cybersecurity: The Weakest Link?

Alejandro Leal
Published on Aug 14, 2022

The Human Factor

Cybercriminals often exploit our human vulnerabilities and psychological elements to steal credentials and gain unauthorized access. Since phishing and social engineering attacks are primarily targeted at people, the human factor continues to be an important element CISOs need to consider in order to protect their organizations from cyber-attacks. Most data breaches are caused by human error, negligence, or lack of awareness, for example, by simply clicking the wrong link. So, it is common for employees to increase their digital footprint without being aware of the risks involved.

We hear this repeatedly: “Humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity.” This negative characterization of human nature is deeply ingrained in the cybersecurity industry. As a result, it prevents us from talking about how to better involve people in cybersecurity processes. In contrast to technology and technical processes, however, people are inconsistent and unpredictable. The human factor problem is complex because, by its nature, it involves a serious sociological, psychological, and philosophical discussion. Unfortunately, this conversation is beyond the scope of this post.

Fostering a cybersecurity culture

In the fight against cyberattacks, human intuition and creativity will always be crucial. During times of geopolitical tensions, for instance, security analysts can predict human behavior, anticipate criminal activities, and understand why threat actors target specific organizations. However, cybersecurity cannot and should not be the responsibility of a single team or department. It must be a shared responsibility across the entire organization, as well as its extended ecosystem of partners, suppliers, and customers.

As organizations embrace hybrid work models and accelerate cloud adoption, they have become more susceptible to account takeovers and other types of fraud. Therefore, it is important for employees to understand how cyberattacks can impact their businesses and how to protect themselves from day one. New employees should receive cybersecurity awareness training as part of their recruitment and onboarding process. In addition, security awareness training should be an ongoing process that must cover a wide variety of topics and examples of phishing, ransomware, and social engineering attacks.

Although security training is useful and imperative, employees do not always use this knowledge without an incentive to do so. Some see gamification as a potential mean to promote active participation in cybersecurity activities, but that alone won’t be effective if there are no actual tools in place that will enable it. The modern cybersecurity landscape has become too broad and complex to be understood by individuals alone, so employing a defense-in-depth strategy may prove essential. By modernizing and automating IT processes, perhaps we can reduce and improve the human factor impact on cybersecurity.

Modernizing and automating IT processes

Instead of teaching people not to click on unsafe links, you might consider installing a mail security gateway that will block unsafe links. Instead of worrying about data loss when working from home – deploy a zero-trust access solution that will make those losses impossible. Instead of trying to prevent rogue administrators from destroying your infrastructure – use solutions that don’t need an administrator. Let users do what they are best trained for – earn profit for your business.

Nevertheless, this does not imply that security training and awareness programs should be abandoned, since awareness already stops a number of attack vectors and lowers the need for expensive tools. Thus, implementing automated solutions and cultivating a cybersecurity culture simultaneously can help your organization stay safe from cyberattacks. While the human factor continues to be a major problem in cybersecurity, it is essential to implement the right tools. It is much easier to blame the end user for a data breach than to address the bigger and more challenging problem of modernizing and automating IT processes.

Cybersecurity Leadership Summit 2022

The agenda of the Cybersecurity Leadership Summit includes keynote presentations and panel discussions on a variety of topics including Building Resilience after a major Incident which will explore resilience measures to be taken immediately after a major incident; Lessons Learned: Responding to Ransomware Attacks which will discuss how managing ransomware attacks requires significant patience and foresight; Human Factors in Cybersecurity which will dive deep into the role of humans at the center of cybersecurity; Overcoming vulnerabilities around Human Factors which will focus on the vulnerabilities around human factors and the importance of security initiatives; and Rethinking cybersecurity from the human element point of view which will present a comprehensive view of what happens when humans are at the center of cybersecurity.

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