CYBER SECURITY | 5.5 MIN READ
Employees are the heart and soul of a company. They keep the business running smoothly, managing business-critical tasks such as its financial stability. Though employees are responsible for keeping a company operating, they can also impede operations by being a major threat to a business' security.
With cyber-attacks on the rise, criminals are developing advanced tactics for breaching companies' networks and accessing sensitive information. Since computers are built to perform with minimal errors, hackers know that an easier way to access a company's network is through their employees, who are prone to careless human errors.
In this article, we'll teach you more about how employees can be are a cyber security threat as well as how you can train your employees about cyber security awareness.
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How are Employees a Cyber Security Threat?
Employees are human, which means they are prone to both emotions and careless errors. These aspects that make us human also serve as a way to open the door for hackers. Let's go through a few scenarios that show the different types of employees that threaten your business' cyber security.
Scenario 1: The Distracted Employee
When an employee is having an off day, whether they are busy, tired, or upset, this can cause them to lose focus in their work.
When an employee is distracted, they might accidentally click on a risky website with questionable links. An employee who is quickly skimming through their inbox might open a phishing email containing a malware-loaded link without thinking twice.
These scenarios are more common than you might think, and can cause viruses to be downloaded onto company devices. Never underestimate the damage that a distracted employee can do.
READ MORE: Can Businesses Be Sued for Data Breaches?
Scenario 2: The Disgruntled Employee
Though we like to think that all our employees love their company and would never seek to harm it, disgruntled employees can serve as cyber security threats as well. Since they know where sensitive information is stored or who has access to it, they could potentially steal this information to sell.
Additionally, a fed-up employee could post your business' personal information online, whether that be financial documents or company secrets that you don't want the public to know about.
Either way, you don't want to find yourself in a situation where one of your own employees has damaged your business' reputation or has gotten it into legal trouble.
Scenario 3: The Un-Educated Employee
The final scenario involves employees who are simply un-educated about the Internet and the threats it contains. Even tech-savvy employees can fall prey to a hacker's tactics if they aren't diligent about constantly educating themselves on the evolving world of cyber threats.
For instance, employees might know how to create an effective password, but might not know to change their passwords every 6 months in case their passwords have been leaked on the dark web.
Also, employees who haven't been educated about the types of phishing are more likely to click on the links in phishing emails because they genuinely cannot tell that the email is a scam.
Many other harmful scenarios can arise from an un-educated employee using the Internet. That is why it would do your company a dis-service if we didn't show you how you can train your employees on cyber security best practices.
READ MORE: Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees
How Can I Train My Employees About Cyber Security?
So, you've come to the realization that you may have overlooked how employees threaten your company's cyber security. Now what?
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to educate your employees about cyber security best practices.
Start Cyber Security Education During the On-Boarding Process
Educating employees about cyber security starting from when they're hired helps to build a company mindset around the importance of cyber security. You could have a process as simple as an educational pamphlet that the new hire has to read and take a test about during the first week of their employment.
If an employee is educated about cyber security right from the start, the odds of them becoming a cyber security threat are likely to decrease.
Train and Test Your Employees Regularly
Creating a monthly company cyber security newsletter can serve as an informative and engaging way to constantly educate your employees about the latest cyber security threats as well as serve as a way to share tips on staying safe online.
Another engaging way to see how educated your employees are about cyber security is to utilize penetration testing. Penetration testing is a fake phishing attack orchestrated by your IT company that aims to see which employees fall for the attack by clicking on fake links or downloading fake files.
If employees fall for these phishing attempts then you can send them through cyber security training, again. We recommend conducting this test quarterly.
However, penetration testing is only so effective if your network has inherent vulnerabilities. We find on a consistent basis that many companies have network security issues that were overlooked or unknown. Conducting an annual network security assessment is a great idea to discover these vulnerabilities.
Create and Enforce a Password Policy
Write a policy dictating how company account passwords are created and maintained. Provide guidelines about how to make passwords complex, randomly generated, and how often to change them.
An easy way that employees can test the strength of their passwords is to visit howsecureismypassword.net. This is a perfectly safe service sponsored by a password protection platform that tells you how long it would take a hacker to decode your password.
When creating a password policy, bear in mind that many people either repeat passwords for multiple accounts or use password managers to keep track of all their account logins. Even though there are password manager programs, they are still vulnerable to hacks that leave your personal information out there for hackers.
Both of these scenarios should be avoided at all costs, so be sure to include warnings against repeat passwords and the use of password managers in your policy.
Invest in Quality Cyber Security
Even if you implement all of the aforementioned educational tactics, there is still a chance that your business could be a victim of a cyber-attack. Employees are human, which means they still might slip up now and then. Hackers can also break into your network without tricking an employee.
Invest in employee cyber security training, but don't stop there. See if your cyber security is strong enough, because without it, employee education only goes so far at stopping a hacker.
Investing in managed services can help fill in security gaps that your employees can't fully patch. While managed services can help educate employees by performing fake phishing attacks, they also use a layered approach to cyber security, implementing multiple tactics to keep your network safe.
By helping to educate employees and protecting your network, managed IT services prevent downtime in the event of a cyber attack, which saves your company money. Hackers won't wait to attack your company so don't wait to protect it.
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.