5 ways employees compromise your cyber security posture

From the early stages of the pandemic, “one quarter of all employees … noticed an increase” in the security threats within their work emails. In other words, cyber security threats became bolder, and they will continue targeting businesses well into the future. As such, cyber security is a major concern in the modern workplace, as successful data breaches will amount to the theft of your sensitive data.

But it is important to acknowledge that security risks can also come from within the organisation. Employees can make mistakes that can compromise the cyber security posture of their company. To ensure that your business has the strongest cyber security solutions and posture, it is important to be aware of the most common staff security mistakes that can put your business in jeopardy.

But first, some context.

What is a cyber security posture?

A cyber security posture encapsulates the overall approach a business takes to protect its information and systems from cyber-attacks. It refers to the complete security framework that an organisation holds – cyber security programs, policies, incident response processes, risk assessments, etc. – and its preparedness to respond to security threats.  

How employees can put your company at risk

While the idea that your staff would pose a risk to your IT systems may seem ludicrous, it is unfortunately not that uncommon. In fact, according to an OAIC report, human error was the cause of 131 data breach notifications from January to June in 2022

So, here are 5 ways employees can compromise your cyber security posture:

1. Risky password behaviours

A major issue that businesses can encounter is employees displaying risky behaviours regarding their passwords, leading to significant security vulnerabilities. Some risky password behaviours that can damage cyber security postures include: 

These behaviours make it easier for unauthorised individuals to gain access to your accounts and company data. To protect yourself from these risks, make sure to create strong and unique passwords (with twelve characters minimum), do not reuse passwords, and never create them using easily guessable words, such as birthdays or “password123”. 

You can also add additional security layers to your business’s login processes with multi-factor authentication (MFA).

2. Unsafe web browsing

While browsing the web may seem harmless, it can be a risky activity. Unsafe websites often contain malware – malicious codes and programs that exploit network vulnerabilities and infect users’ devices. Malicious websites can also be used to steal users’ personal data by encouraging them to click on ads or links to (unknowingly) download malware. 

Unsafe browsing is further heightened when it is done using unsecure public Wi-Fi networks. Connections within public Wi-Fi systems are often unencrypted, increasing the chances of data being stolen. To protect yourself and your team from risky web browsing, you could invest in a virtual private network (VPN), security awareness training to learn the ways of moving through the internet safely, and in web-filtering programs to block access to harmful websites.   

3. Internal threat actors

Insider threats come from former or current employees accessing sensitive information to harm the business, knowingly and unknowingly. They can damage a business’s cyber security posture in several ways. For example, an employee could sell your company’s secrets to a competitor, or leak confidential information to the public. An insider threat actor’s moves can be difficult to identify because they are authorised to use the network, allowing them to effectively hide in plain sight, so to speak. 

Insider threats are a serious risk to your company’s cyber security solutions and policies. In order to prevent these types of attacks, business leaders ought to: 

4. Unsecured mobile devices

Mobile devices can be left unsecured in two ways: physically and digitally. For the former, team members that are working out of the office (especially in a public setting) may move away from their device, effectively leaving it exposed to anybody who comes across it. 

Regarding the latter, your organisation’s mobile devices are its endpoints – the tools people use to access your network. If your employees are using their personal devices to access work data, it is likely that your company’s endpoint management solutions are not protecting them.

It is critical for company devices to lock automatically when not in use. At the same time, businesses ought to develop foolproof bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies to ensure that your organisation’s endpoints are kept secure and you are fully aware of who is using what to access sensitive data.

5. Falling victim to phishing attacks

Phishing utilises fraudulent emails to lure people into providing confidential information, such as usernames or passwords. It is a form of social engineering, whereby perpetrators rely on people’s trust to successfully access information and company devices. 

Phishing attacks can have a serious impact on an organisation’s security posture, as they can turn employees into unwitting accomplices in cybercrimes. As with many cyber security threats, companies can protect themselves by educating their staff on cyber security. In this case, learning how to differentiate between a legitimate email and a fake one (as well as training staff not to click on potentially harmful links) will go a long way to protecting data.

Improve your security posture with cyber security experts

Your employees are crucial to maintaining your business’s longevity. The cyber security specialists at Muscatech can provide your employees with the knowledge and solutions they need to protect themselves and your company’s data from cyber threats, whether it be in the cloud or on-site. If you are eager to adopt a strong security posture for your business, contact Muscatech today.

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