As a business owner, you are probably hyper aware of the costs of human error. It can affect your profit margin, customer relationships, and other elements of your business. While most business owners are aware that errors can cause profit loss or damaged stock, most do not consider that errors are also one of the leading causes of cyber attacks. In fact, the Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report shows that human error lies behind 14% of all cyber attacks.

Unintentional errors can expose and compromise secure assets and data, leaving your business open to hacks, theft, and data loss, which can hurt profits, your reputation, and even your ability to function as a business. You can protect your business by understanding the potential risks of accidental exposure and taking the right steps to protect your business from human error.

How Accidental Exposure Happens

Accidental exposure breaches can result in data loss, malware, ransomware, and several other types of cyber attacks. In most cases, the success of cyber-attacks inside of organizations with security protocols can be attributed to human error. Here are a few of the most common human errors:

  • Falling for Phishing – Phishing is one of the most common cyber attacks because it targets employees rather than companies, making it easier to find vulnerable targets and therefore easier to successfully penetrate a company’s security. Phishing attacks are launched at email and social media accounts, typically disguising themselves as trusted websites, or even as having come from the company itself. They often aim to steal data, infect the computer to gain access to the network, or even trick the employee into providing their network access credentials. Phishing is one of the largest risks for small businesses, and the frequency of attacks is on the rise. Symantec shows that phishing attacks against small businesses increase over 50% every year.
  • Laziness – Failure to patch known vulnerabilities, download security updates, or turn on firewalls might seem trivial to an employee who just wants to go home, but it can prove detrimental to your business.
  • Mistakes – An employee may inadvertently forward sensitive data to the wrong person, a developer may have misconfigured security protocols enabling anyone to access private data, an access port may be unsecured, an employee may lose their access credentials, an employee may let someone into the system thinking they should be there, and so on. Mistakes happen, and they can be very random and difficult to predict.

Protecting your Business from Accidental Exposure

Protecting your business from accidental breaches related to human error means taking steps to safeguard data, minimize risks in case a breach happens, and educate employees to reduce some of the risks of human error.

  • Educate Employees – Training employees in basic internet security and company protocol can greatly improve your security. While potential attacks may seem obvious to you, some people aren’t aware of the tactics used by hackers. Training an employee to recognize a phishing attack can greatly reduce your risks. Similarly, educating employees on the rise of cyber attacks and potential damage that can occur can help them understand the need for greater diligence. A course on computer security can help ensure employees install updates and use their antivirus programs to protect their devices and your network.
  • Secure Devices – Whether you provide employee devices or allow Bring Your Own Device, any device with access to your network must be secured while on your network. Installing device management and/or security programs on every device capable of accessing your network ensures that your employee won’t bring an infected or unsecure device into your network, where it can infect everything else.
  • Create Access Rights – Limited access to secure data decreases the risk of a breach and ensures that if a breach happens, it won’t matter as much. Most employees don’t need access to important data, and limiting access will make it so that lost access credentials won’t mean losing all your data.
  • Review Security Policies – If your business maintains active cybersecurity policies, it is important that you review them with your employees. A regular update on new policies, as well as updated information on new risks as they happen, can help to keep employees aware of potential issues and therefore help them be more vigilant in preventing breaches.

While being aware of the dangers of human error can help you to create policies to deter it, mistakes will still happen. Make sure your cybersecurity plan is ready to tackle any data breaches with a Threat Sketch Risk Assessment.

Learn more about how to protect your business on our education page.

About the Author: Brandy Cross is a freelance writer specializing in technology and marketing solutions for SMBs, with experience writing for everyone from startups to Fortune 500s.