Many movies and other media may have a bit of a warped idea of what hackers do, exactly. But one show that got it right is Mr. Robot, which shows that a company’s weakest spot is usually its people. The “human factor” they call it.
It’s true that a lot of data breaches and other security compromises could have been avoided if people didn’t make mistakes. Sadly, there’s no real way to eliminate the human factor, as people have psychological flaws – no one’s perfect. And criminals know this, which is why they keep preying on people’s flaws, and cyberattacks continue to take on more complex forms.
While it’s not always avoidable, there are ways to equip employees to be more guarded against cyberattacks. Specifically, phishing attacks, which is by far the most common method employed by hackers. Here’s how a company can train its employees to avoid phishing attacks.
1. Provide Adequate Education about Phishing and Cybersecurity
Many people don’t fully understand what fishing is, how it works, or even what phishing emails/messages look like. The first step towards protection should always be education. It’s vital that employees are taught about the different types of phishing attacks and that they are aware of what to look out for.
Organizations spend thousands – sometimes even millions – of dollars on the security infrastructure. How much of that is spent on educating employees about said security? Often little, if any. No wonder people are still seen as the weakest link.
Teach them how to spot phishing attempts:
- Phishing attempts almost always contain a link, downloadable attachment, or directive telling people to do something ASAP.
- There are often a lot of spelling mistakes, but not always.
- The email or message can instill a sense of urgency to get people to act quickly without thinking.
- It may be a threat or even blackmail, as is the case with sextortion phishing scams.
- The email signature will usually look strange or different from normal.
- Despite all of the common telltale signs, phishing emails can look legitimate. Hackers can make spear phishing attacks that look like a known company, bank, or contractor sent the email. However, employees should use common sense to think about whether this email was warranted. Does it contain a link and is asking them to log onto their account for no reason? Most banks, for example, won’t send an email asking people to log into their accounts or send any links.
- Phishing emails or messages aren’t always from strangers. Sometimes they’re sent from the compromised accounts of friends, coworkers, or other contacts.
2. Have a Refresher Session Once a Year
Keeping the company’s systems protected isn’t just about educating people but about helping them build safe habits. One of the only ways to get people to form good habits is through repetition. In this case, it means repeating important information about phishing to keep it fresh in people’s minds.
3. Adopt More Cybersecurity Tools
In this case, cybersecurity tools serve a double function. The most obvious being that they add more protection for company systems and intellectual property. But they also have the added benefit of reminding people about safety. If someone has to log into a VPN every day, they are reminded that they have to keep their data safe.
Plenty of VPNs, like NordVPN, offer business packages with great deals, so this won’t be a major hit to the company budget either. But is NordVPN secure? Not all VPNs are trustworthy, especially the free ones. However, NordVPN is mentioned here because it’s one of the best VPNs on the market. Be sure to do ample research and choose the most reliable cybersecurity tools.
The same goes for company firewalls, anti-virus programs, other forms of data encryption, and online accounts.
4. Set Up Protocols For Your Employees
Teaching employees about phishing attacks is only half the job. There should also be a set of protocols for when they’ve identified a message or email that might be a phishing attack. Usually, this should be coordinated with the IT department or CISO to notify them of anything suspicious.
The person in charge of cybersecurity (and there should be one, even for smaller businesses) must take every notification seriously. They then need to work with the employee to verify the phishing attempt and determine whether anything else needs to be done.
The company can also set up protocols that dictate how people use personal devices at or for work. If someone uses their smartphone to look at company emails, then they need to apply the same level of security on that device.
It’s tough to keep a company safe at the best of times. But when its employees aren’t included in those efforts, they are actively putting the company at risk.
With the help of some training and proper security protocols, it is possible to lessen the risk of the human factor considerably.