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How Human Error Compromises Network Security

They say that to err is human. This is especially true when it comes to the ways humans interact with technology. Human error is actually one of the biggest factors when it comes to putting network security at risk. The fact of the matter is that human error accounts for more than half of all network security breaches and hacks. Many enterprises invest huge sums of money into security technology. However, the important role that human error plays in most security breaches is often grossly underestimated when conducting vulnerability assessments. As a result, uniformed employees continually create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. The ways that hackers are able to use employee error to steal data and compromise sensitive information is rather shocking. Take some time to learn about how informed employees are the final piece in a tight network security plan.

How Networks Are Compromised by Employees

There are many ways hackers can take advantage of human behavior to extract useful information from employees. Targeted employees won’t have any idea that they’ve just revealed important information and left their employers vulnerable to attacks. Many hackers use social engineering techniques that extract information from employees under the guise of legitimate correspondence. Emails and messages will often request information by appearing to be related to IT security, charity causes or contests. Of course, sometimes error just comes down to simple mistakes or negligence. Some ways that employees commonly leave networks vulnerable include:

  • -Leaving laptops and mobile devices in unlocked cars, hotel rooms or public places.
  • -Emailing sensitive data to unintended recipients.
  • -Inadvertently configuring databases so that sensitive data can be searched via the Internet.
  • -Opening and responding to phishing emails.
  • -Accessing the Internet via public Wi-Fi spots.
  • -Using low-quality passwords that contain names, birthdays or other elements that can be easily guessed.
  • -Failing to revoke high-level access after an employee has changed job roles or left an organization.

Protecting Against Human Error

Protecting a network against human error is often more frustrating than dealing with complicated code and programs. Many IT teams find it difficult to anticipate the ways that employees can open an enterprise up for security breaches. Basic training for employees regarding network security is a good first step. It is important that data security training for employees and vendors is updated regularly to keep up with the ever–evolving tactics and capabilities of hackers.

Many enterprises that handle sensitive information are even going a step further to ensure that employee error doesn’t cause millions of dollars in damage and reputation loss. These enterprises are turning to social engineering assessments that allow them to measure how employees would respond to phishing attempts. Such assessments offer simulated phishing programs that can identify susceptible employees who may require additional training. Social engineering testing should also be accompanied by penetration testing if an enterprise wishes to get a clear picture of just how deep hackers can get into their systems. Penetration testing offers what is essentially a simulated and controlled hack that reveals an enterprise’s vulnerabilities. Without a social engineering assessment and penetration testing, an IT security officer doesn’t have a clear picture of a network’s true vulnerabilities. There is a great danger that hackers will discover weak points in an enterprise before an IT security officer does. Taking some time to implement and learn from social engineering testing can help an enterprise stay a step ahead of security breaches.

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