As big companies like Adobe, eBay, LinkedIn, Marriott, and more keep making headlines for cybersecurity hacks and data breaches, it’s no wonder that every business owner is worried about their cybersecurity practices. Data breaches are every organization’s worst nightmare—they stop operations, negatively affect customer perception, cost significant amounts of money, and can even put a company out of business. So, business owners and managers are implementing solutions to ensure their data stays secure and out of the hands of cybercriminals. Organizations are upgrading their firewalls, using VPNs, relying on cloud backups, the list goes on. But one thing that many companies often overlook can actually be their biggest cybersecurity threat: employees.
Why Are Your Employees A Cybersecurity Threat?
When many business owners think of cybersecurity threats, their employees don’t even cross their minds. Instead, their thoughts go straight to hackers, sitting in a dark, empty warehouse, wearing a hoodie, staring at six different screens while aggressively typing nonsense until they’ve somehow made their way into their systems. But in reality, that’s not how data breaches happen. Yes, there are hackers involved, but more often than not, they aren’t trying to guess your passwords like movies tend to illustrate. Instead, they’re often trying to use your employees to find a way into your network.
Ways Cybercriminals Target Your Employees
So, how exactly are hackers using your employees to access your information? Here are four of the most common ways.
1. Phishing Attacks
The first way an employee can become a company’s biggest cybersecurity risk is through phishing attacks. A phishing attack is where a criminal sends an email made to look like it’s coming from a legitimate source. We’ve probably all encountered one of these before. The email might be disguised as coming from Apple, Netflix, or another company that many people have an account with. The email will somehow be asking the target employee to provide personal login credentials or sensitive information. And because an employee thinks this email is coming from a legitimate source, they don’t question it and input their information. The hacker can then use this information to get into accounts and your network.
2. Weak Passwords
The next way employees threaten a business’s cybersecurity position is by using bad passwords. An organization could have the best of the best cybersecurity system, and human error in the form of a weak password could still allow a cybercriminal to get their hands on your data. This is the instance where a hacker might actually be trying to guess passwords over and over—called a brute force attack. However, most likely, it’s not a criminal trying to guess your password; it’s that they’ve designed a code that continuously uses different variants until a password has been cracked. And obviously, a weak, common password will be easier to crack. Further, if your employees are using the same password across multiple accounts, especially across personal and business accounts (which is all too common), hackers can get into all of these accounts by accessing a single password through a phishing scam or a brute force attack.
3. Home WiFi
Work-from-home setups have also thrown a curveball at companys’ cybersecurity stance. Organizations are usually extremely careful when setting up their WiFi networks because it can be a gateway for hackers to get into their systems. Since many companies have moved to a work-from-home or hybrid schedule in the past year, employee’s home networks have been a common target for hackers because of their lax security practices. Employees’ home networks may not be protected by a firewall or may not be kept up-to-date, which is how security gaps are patched. Without these protections, it can be easy for a criminal to access your employees’ network and then find a way into yours.
4. Personal Devices
Last but not least, employees using personal devices without being aware of strong cybersecurity practices can also put your organization at risk. And, once again, with the move to work-from-home, many employees are using their personal devices. Whether it’s their smartphone, tablet, or laptop, unless an employee is actively ensuring that their devices are updated and protected, these can all be gateways to your network.
So, What Can You Do About It?
So, now that you know that your employees can be a substantial risk to your cybersecurity posture, what can you do about it? Well, the good news is that it’s not too difficult or expensive to significantly reduce the risk employees pose to your organization. Really, the best thing you can do is spend a little more time training your employees on good cybersecurity habits, what to look out for, and how to ensure their work-from-home technology is correctly set up.
Teach them how they can spot phishing emails, which is especially pertinent as hackers become more sophisticated and phishing emails become increasingly more convincing. Even just being aware of the possibility of phishing emails makes employees much more likely to second-guess any suspicious emails and take the safe route of manually visiting a website to double-check if the email is correct rather than clicking on the link in the email (which is how malware is transmitted). Put together a training on the dangers of using passwords across multiple accounts and how they should be using passphrases and password vaults. Train your employees on the importance of keeping their home routers and devices updated and what they can do to be as secure as possible while working remotely.
Training and awareness is the biggest solution when it comes to the cybersecurity threats that employees pose. Work-from-home and hybrid schedules have made keeping your organization secure all that more difficult. But when you have confidence that your employees know what to look out for and how to keep their data secure, you can have confidence that your data is secure.
To learn more about protecting you and your business from cybersecurity threats, check out our Ultimate Guide To Cybersecurity!