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Users are the Biggest Cybersecurity Vulnerability for Your Business. Here’s Why.

Even the tallest wall cannot block an intruder coming through an open door.

The same can be said for your cybersecurity. Even if your organization has the most sophisticated security program—with extensive logging, detection mechanism, automated remediation protocols, and complex policies—none of those defense mechanisms can help you when a user makes a mistake and allows an attacker straight through.

So today, let’s talk about that final piece of assessing your organization’s cyber risks: how can you protect your data against human fallibility?

Your Users are Your Weakest Link

The inconvenient truth is that your users are human, and humans are always prone to mistakes and manipulation.

Organizations are constantly at risk because of user behavior. In fact, human error and social engineering are the highest risk types of attacks for more than 40% of executives. Hackers exploit users because that approach works. It’s much easier to get an employee to click on a phishing link and steal their login credentials than to gain control over an office Wi-Fi router through a remote server.

Even with sophisticated detection and remediation protocols, you cannot design a truly comprehensive risk-based security program without accounting for the human element.

Protect Your Organization from Your Users

So, how do you reduce the risk posed by your users?

Securing your organization’s data from the human element consists of two key elements:

  1. Securing user behavior
  2. Securing user devices.

Secure Users with Cybersecurity Training

Begin by addressing human weaknesses by working with your users on their behavior.

Are your employees aware of common social engineering tactics? If not, then you should introduce mandatory security training walking your team through common attack types, signs of a phishing email, and the best way to report any suspicious content to your IT department. 

But security awareness is only half the battle. In a recent survey, more than 25% of employees across organizations have admitted to compromising their organization’s security while working from home. However, none of those respondents reported those incidents to their organizations, citing fear of repercussions. 

Make sure that you are encouraging good security practices from your users by treating them with respect and helping them feel some ownership over your organization’s security. 

Secure User Devices

Even if every user is aware of common risks and actively practices cyber safety, they are a still a security risk.

To reduce the likelihood of associated exploits, your organization needs to address the vulnerabilities on any user devices. Begin by scanning those devices. You will need to assess all user endpoints and remediate any vulnerabilities you find.

Deploy some type of endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution on any employee laptops, workstations, and tablets. That security agent should scan the devices for existing vulnerabilities. Look for any known exploits or common misconfigurations, and pay close attention to the most essential business information. 

In our experience, the most common vulnerabilities on user devices fall into two categories:

  1. Misconfiguration: check for the permissions and settings on any applications and services. Look out for any processes that are running when they shouldn’t be, or applications with excessive access beyond necessary functionality. 
  2. Missing Patches: is every application patched to the latest version? If not, you need to apply all available patches and updates and make sure to continue maintaining those applications in the future.

Don’t Neglect Securing the Cloud & Personal Devices

Even after you’ve taught your users best security practices and protected their physical devices, you need to account for other common attack vectors.

If your organization is using any cloud services or if you have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, then you should be addressing those risks as well.

Cloud Security Vulnerabilities

While many organizations believe that cloud services are already secure, they are mistaken.

Last year, 45% of data breaches were in the cloud. Just because your files or applications are running online, they aren’t necessarily secure. A cloud server can be exploited in the same way as a physical on-premise endpoint. 

Personal Device Vulnerabilities

If you are allowing your users to access any type of work data or applications from their personal devices, you need to manage those risks as well.

Remember, any device interacting with your organization’s private information is also an attack vector. That includes any personal desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. You don’t have to ban the use of personal devices, but incorporate some level of protection.

Protect all of your cloud services with dedicated cloud firewalls. Insist that employees can only access work information with a properly configured VPN. Include information about phone and personal device security within your cybersecurity training.

Protect Your Organization with Managed Security Services

Are you overwhelmed by all the work required to protect your organization’s sensitive data from user error? 

If your in-house staff doesn’t have the capacity to run a comprehensive cybersecurity program, consider outsourcing to a qualified managed security services provider (MSSP). Our team at Pareto Cyber is ready to help! Contact us for a free cyber risk assessment today.