The Ever-Changing World of Cyber Threats: The Human Element in the Digital Age

By | Published On: 6 July 2023 | 5.5 min read |

In the vast expanse of the digital universe, cyber threats loom large, casting shadows over businesses, big and small. With the increasing reliance on email communications, the need to understand and counter these threats has never been more pressing. But what makes these threats so formidable? It’s their dynamic nature, their ability to evolve, adapt, and become more sophisticated with each passing day. However, amidst the technical jargon and complex algorithms, there’s a human element that often gets overlooked: your team, especially Karen from accounts.

The Human Element: More Than Just a Technical Challenge

You might have thought that all you needed was robust cyber security. Unfortunately, that’s only half the battle. The real problem? Your people. The solution? Also, your people.

Whilst it’s easy to point fingers, the reality is that every employee, from the top executive to the intern, can be a potential cyber security threat. Deliberate insider threats, such as disgruntled employees seeking revenge or those involved in organised crime, pose a significant risk. On the other hand, accidental insider threats, like employees using weak passwords or mistakenly sending confidential data, can be just as damaging.

The Stark Reality

A staggering 68% of data breaches result from insider threats, as reported by Digital Guardian. Many of these breaches occur due to a disconnect between HR and IT departments, especially when an employee’s status changes, like when they leave the company.

For instance, a cautionary tale from 2019 highlights the severe repercussions of not implementing basic security protocols when an employee departs. A spa in Yorkshire faced devastating consequences when a sacked receptionist cancelled over two hundred appointments remotely. The spa eventually went bankrupt.

The Evolution of Cyber Threats

The cyber threats of today are not the same as those from a decade ago. In our Linkedin Live session we highlighted the resurgence of romance fraud during the pandemic, reminiscent of the old “Nigerian prince” schemes. These scams seemed to have faded away 10-15 years ago but have made a comeback due to the isolation and loneliness people felt during the pandemic.

Phishing remains the number one most common and disruptive form of attack. Cyber criminals are opportunists who quickly adapt to current trends and people’s concerns. They exploit these vulnerabilities, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. As businesses incorporate newer technologies, cyber criminals find innovative ways to exploit them, making the threats more polished and harder to spot.

The Imperative of Staying Updated

The key takeaway from this ever-changing landscape is clear: adaptation is not just necessary; it’s vital. As technology continues its relentless march forward, so do the methods employed by hackers and cyber criminals. This means that the security measures that worked yesterday might be obsolete today.

Regularly updating security protocols, investing in the latest cyber security tools, and training employees to recognise potential threats are all part of a proactive approach to email security. It’s not just about defence; it’s about staying one step ahead, anticipating potential threats, and countering them before they can cause harm.

The Perils of Complacency

Complacency can be a business’s worst enemy. Failing to adapt to the changing cyber threat landscape doesn’t just leave a business vulnerable; it paints a target on its back. Outdated security measures are like open doors for hackers, inviting them in.

The repercussions of such oversight can be devastating. Financial losses, data breaches, and a tarnished reputation are just the tip of the iceberg. In some cases, businesses have had to shut down operations due to the magnitude of cyber attacks.

Moreover, the cost of recovery after an attack often far exceeds the investment required for proactive security measures. It’s a classic case of “a stitch in time saves nine.” By staying updated and vigilant, businesses can save themselves from potential catastrophes down the line.

Bridging the Gap: HR’s Role in Cyber Security

Human Resources organisations face a unique challenge. They’re at the crossroads of managing people and ensuring that company policies align with security protocols. An insider threat, whether deliberate or accidental, poses a significant risk to a company’s security.

To safeguard against these threats, organisations must:

  • Establish clear HR policies for departing staff, including exit interviews and IT equipment returns.
  • Educate staff on potential threats and reporting mechanisms.
  • Implement robust access controls and monitor internal network activity.
  • Regularly review and update data control and access policies.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Everyone’s a Target

A common misconception in the realm of cyber security is that only big corporations are at risk of cyber attacks. The reality is starkly different. Cyber criminals don’t discriminate based on size. Whether it’s an individual, a budding start-up, a small local business, or a multinational corporation, everyone is a potential target.

For individuals, the risks might manifest in the form of identity theft, financial fraud, or personal data breaches. Small businesses, often perceived as ‘low-hanging fruit’ due to potentially lax security measures, can face devastating financial and reputational damages from a single breach. Larger companies, whilst having more robust security infrastructures, also present a more lucrative target with vast amounts of data and financial resources at stake.

The rationale behind targeting smaller entities is simple: they often lack the advanced security infrastructure of larger corporations, making them easier to breach. Moreover, many small businesses mistakenly believe they’re too insignificant to be targeted, leading to complacency in their security measures.

In the digital age, the size of an entity doesn’t dictate its vulnerability. Instead, it’s the security measures in place, the awareness of potential threats, and the proactive steps taken to counteract them that truly matter. Everyone, irrespective of their size or stature, needs to be vigilant and proactive in their approach to cyber security.

In Conclusion

In the grand scheme of business operations, cyber security might seem like a technical challenge. However, its human element is undeniable. As cyber threats continue to grow in number and sophistication, businesses must recognise the importance of a holistic approach to security, one that combines technical measures with human-centric strategies. Regular training sessions for new employees and periodic reminders for the entire team can make a significant difference.

The best line of defence is prevention, if you don’t then you have to do a lot more training and hope for the best as staff will never be as well trained as a Security Company like us looking after your cyber security.

Remember, the threat from within can be as damaging, if not more so, than external threats. How prepared is your organisation to handle insider threats?

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