One of the most common misconceptions regarding cybersecurity is that it mostly has to do with computers and technology. This widely accepted misconception plays a significant role in the rising number of data breaches and cyber attacks that are on the rise today.
In 2020 alone, 43% of C-Suite business leaders reported human error as the leading cause of their data breaches. It is, therefore, crucial to realize the critical role humans have to play in cybersecurity. But how is it that humans have such a lasting impact?
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What is the humanistic side of Cyber security?
The cyber threat landscape has long since evolved from the traditional attack vectors. Long gone are the days when cybercriminals launched attacks focusing on network and software vulnerabilities. It is probably because organizations now secure their networks through various tools like a VPN or antimalware software while neglecting the humanistic aspects of cybersecurity.
Such neglect has given the threat actors the opportunity they need to exploit the humanistic side of cybersecurity. There are several cyber security techniques and attacks that exploit the humanistic aspect of cyber security, such as:
1. Social engineering
Nicknamed as the art of human hacking, social engineering deploys manipulating human interactions to carry out malicious activities. A successful social engineering attack features the threat actor using a mix of reconnaissance techniques and psychological manipulation and tricking the victim into revealing sensitive information or disrupting cybersecurity. There are various types of social engineering attacks, amongst which some of the most common ones are as follows:
- Phishing: the most common type of attack, it works by creating a sense of urgency, curiosity, and fear in the victim, prodding them into revealing information, clicking on malicious links, or downloading malware.
- Spear Phishing: a targeted phishing scam where the threat actor chooses the victim and tailors the attack per the reconnaissance they have gathered.
- Baiting: the attack exploits the natural human inclination of curiosity and greed through false promises. It mainly features a form of physical media to dispatch malware, such as a USB Drive.
- Scareware features bombarding the victim with false alarms and fictitious threats, leading them to install malicious software or reveal private information.
Social engineering attacks have been present for a considerable period, and since these attacks work on exploiting human weaknesses, they might not cease any time soon.
2. Business Email Compromise
Business Email Compromise or BEC attacks involve a threat actor hacking into a corporate email account and duping other company employees and members to provide the threat actor with money or sensitive information. The theta actor impersonates some higher member of the company with authority over finances, knowledge, and several other employees. These attacks are also known as “man-in-the-mail” attacks, a term derived from the “man-in-the-middle” attack. Some of the most common forms of a BEC scam are as follows:
- Fraudulent invoice scam: it is when the threat actor uses a compromised corporate email to send an invoice to clients and customers, asking for payments that go into the threat actor’s account.
- Fake attorney scam: when a threat actor hacks into a lawyer’s email account and emails clients to send immediate payments.
- Fake boss scam: a threat actor hacks into the CEO or business executives’ account, instructing employees to send urgent money into a fraudulent account.
While most business email compromise attacks involve stealing money, these attacks are also often used to steal PII, trade secrets, or other sensitive information.
3. Human Error in Cybersecurity
It is not only the human-centric cyber attacks that are on the rise. Human errors are another rising cause of data breaches and cyber security issues. A study by IBM reveals how human error is the leading cause of 95% of info security breaches. Admittedly, these human errors are unintentional actions, often due to a lack of knowledge, but they have a catastrophic impact on a company’s cybersecurity infrastructure.
Human error in cybersociety is not limited to one particular action; rather, it encompasses several activities within which each action has a rather dire effect on cybersecurity. Some of the most prevalent examples of human errors in cybersecurity are:
- Losing or misplacing passwords
- Unintentionally downloading malicious attachments
- Using public wifi to access corporate information
- Falling victim to a social engineering tactic
- Leaving important information unprotected and unattended.
Such errors are unfortunately a common occurrence in the modern business world. They are often due to the lack of awareness. At most times, employees cannot recognize if they are becoming victims of a social engineering attack or are about to download a malicious attachment, primarily because they don’t know how these scams are tailored to look. Other times it is mere carelessness over data handling or forgetfulness that a threat actor exploits.
How can you reduce the human factor when dealing with cyber security?
The modern threat landscape requires dealing with cybersecurity through a holistic approach. It implies implementing the use of network security software and recognizing the humanistic aspect of cybersecurity. Since the human factor within cybersecurity is increasingly becoming crucial, the following methods are popularly considered to implement a humanistic approach to cybersecurity:
1. Educate and spread awareness regarding cybersecurity within employees
Educating and spreading awareness regarding the rising cybersecurity problems and issues can help a company in the long run. As employees are made aware of how to recognize common phishing scams or the telltale signs of a malware attack, they can either mitigate them or alert the security team at the right time. Moreover, spreading knowledge and awareness regarding cybersecurity practices can remarkably reduce instances of lost passwords and compromised credentials.
2. Implement a security policy
A security policy can significantly help reduce cybersecurity risks and issues. The policy should outline the essential methods, and ways employees are required to handle critical data, such as making it mandatory to use a VPN during remote working setups or protecting accounts with multi-factor authentication. The organization should regularly revise and revisit these rules to ensure they are up-to-date with the rising cybersecurity issues and threats.
3. Ensure access management
Stealing data and finances are the very reason a cyber attack occurs, which is why both of these assets should be protected carefully. Access to sensitive data and finances should be monitored closely, and only authorized persons should have access to them. Only a handful of people who have access to such crucial elements could significantly help mitigate data breach issues.
It is quite true in its essence that human beings are often considered as one of the weakest links in the chain of cybersecurity. However, if we work to eradicate that weakness, we can ensure a robust and cyber-secure environment within our offices. Recognizing the humanistic cyber security issues and addressing them accordingly is critical to attaining that cybersecurity.