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‘Human Error’: Beware of this most neglected link in Cybersecurity

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Almost all successful cyber breaches share one element in common i.e. Human Error.

The average cost of data breaches from human error stands at $3.33 million – IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020.

For years, human error has consistently been identified as a major contributing factor to cybersecurity breaches. We can take all the precautions to combat cyber threats, but a simple human error can still put everything in jeopardy. Whether it’s an unintentional link click or a missed update, such small mistakes can lead to big problems.


Also Read: 5 Common Cybersecurity Mistakes to Avoid in 2022


What is a ‘Human Error’?

Human error is simply an unintentional action. Such action can range dramatically in its impact, ranging from inconsequential to extremely damaging. Human errors can be broadly classified into two categories – skill-based errors and knowledge-based errors. Skill-based errors occur when a user is performing familiar activities but fails to follow a correct procedure due to a distraction or negligence. Knowledge-based error occurs when an individual has not been provided with the information necessary to avoid such a misstep.

10 most common Human Errors in cybersecurity are:

  1. Poor password hygiene
  2. Clicking on links
  3. Email mis-delivery
  4. Opening unknown attachments
  5. Improper handling of sensitive data
  6. Using outdated (or unauthorized) software
  7. Incomplete or delayed patches/upgrades
  8. Disabling security features
  9. Using public Wi-Fi for critical/sensitive activities
  10. Opening email links or attachments without paying attention

How to minimize the impact of Human Error?

Whether users are negligent, careless, or simply uninformed, the human error can lead to a cyber-attack. The below-mentioned tips can help to mitigate the risk…

  • Create an efficient and strict security policy: The policy should clearly outline how to handle sensitive data, who can access them, which software to use, etc.
  • Apply the principle of least privilege or zero trust: If users can only access data required for their work, you can prevent accidental data leaks. Thus, deny all access by default and allow privileged access only when needed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Monitor your employees: User activity monitoring tools can help to detect malicious activity and secure your system from data leaks and cyber-attacks.
  • Educate your employees: Despite all the modern security solutions and corporate policies, employees still make mistakes that may lead to data breaches. Thus, the most effective solution is to educate your employees on the negative impact of cyber-attacks and positive impact of best practices. It can reduce human errors to great extent. 

Wrapping up

Human error in cybersecurity breaches is an age-old problem. People are a vital part of the cybersecurity of any organization, thus strengthening its technical defenses alone will not suffice. Similarly, while having security policies in place is crucial, organizations also must realize that policies cannot cover all the risks. It is only through educating the employees about the importance of working safely that organizations can help to mitigate the risks arising out of human error and safeguard what is most important to them – the data.

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