How Human Elements Impact Email Security

How Human Elements Impact Email Security

Human factors heavily influence email security, with individuals’ vulnerability to phishing and social engineering playing a crucial role in compromising email systems.

Cybersecurity has been a hot topic in 2023 due to the rising number of cyber events and the high price tag that comes with them for companies. In October of 2023 alone, there were over 867,072,300 breached data records, accounting for millions of dollars in lost data and an irreparable impact on the reputation of all companies involved.

In the face of this rising cyber threat, most companies are focusing on the different technologies that they can employ to decrease the impact of cyber events. Of course, effective data compliance, management, and backup strategy is a vital step in keeping businesses safe. Yet, other factors can lead to data breaches that most companies overlook.

Human factors account for around 82% of all breaches that occur in business environments. From an employee clicking on a spam link to accidentally giving out their username and password without realizing it, there are numerous ways that human error can quickly become the weak link in cybersecurity.

In this article, we’ll dive into the various human elements that impact cyber security, detailing why they can be so drastic, and exploring how your business can put in place methods to reduce the frequency of human error negatively impacting your business.

Let’s dive right in.

What Human Actions Can Impact Email Security?

Businesses hold a huge amount of important data, spanning across financial records, private proprietary software, and client information. Due to this, they are routinely a target for malicious actors who want to extract that information for their good or to sell it to other buyers at a high price.

Knowing that most businesses will have a comprehensive network of cybersecurity defenses, many hackers instead turn to employees. Phishing and malware are two common practices that malicious actors will use to engage with businesses and fool their employees. The hope is that an employee will click on a spam link and give away their details or download malware to their work computer.

One known factor that hackers use to inspire employees to click on their links is action bias. Action bias is a trait of human psychology that inspires people to want to instantly react to any potential threat. When a hacker emails an employee and says that they need to reset their password because someone is on their bank account right now, they’ll be scared into instantly taking action. Of course, this is when they log into a false page and give away their user details.

While action bias is innate, we can train people to recognize these impulses and take a second before responding to them. Through education, you can teach the vast majority of users to be more aware of potential threats and to avoid the most common scams and phishing emails.

How Can My Business Reduce the Impact of Human Error?

The first step toward reducing the impact of human error is to understand exactly where the threat comes from. Most of the time, businesses will already have a range of cybersecurity tools to keep their employees safe. Only a select few will slip through the cracks and arrive in an employee’s inbox.

With that in mind, there are numerous ways that businesses can reduce the impact of human error with preemptive steps and methods:

  • Create Backups of all Data – One of the most effective ways of reducing the impact of any human error that can occur in your business is to make sure you have backups to fall back on. If an employee downloads ransomware that freezes your system, a backup will allow you to carry on working without much of an impact. Without this backup, you’ll have no other choice than to engage with your hackers.
  • Avoid Email Signature Vulnerabilities – When employees generate their signatures from unknown sources, they could be introducing vulnerabilities into their emails that hackers could take advantage of. Be sure to use an email signature manager for Office 365 and other email platforms you work with to monitor where people are getting their email signatures from and to cut out any potentially dangerous links.
  • Access Control – Access control programs are designed to limit the total amount of files that certain users can access from their accounts. An admin of your system would be able to configure who can access what files and create limitations. With these limits actively constraining users, even if a person gave away access to their account, the hacker wouldn’t have complete control over all of your files.

While not an exhaustive list, these steps will point your business in the right direction and make sure that you don’t lose too much control in the face of a human-inspired security event.

How To Improve Employee Cybersecurity Awareness

At the end of the day, the only way that your business can assuredly reduce the total amount of cybersecurity events that humans cause is to focus on educating your teams as much as possible. You could have the best security system in the world, but if your employees don’t know the first thing about managing their online accounts, it could all be for nothing.

When creating a more robust security posture, you should start by engaging with different employees and teaching them the basics of cybersecurity. You don’t need to go through anything particularly complex in these lessons. On the contrary, you can simply teach them about what certain threats look like, how to respond to a threat, and how to report any malicious content to their security admin.

While it may seem overly simple, education is the most powerful tool that businesses have at their disposal when it comes to improving employee cybersecurity awareness and, in consequence, the entire security system of your company.

Final Thoughts

While human elements are one of the leading factors in cybersecurity weaknesses, they don’t have to be. Creating educational programs that teach your employees about the various potential dangers of clicking on links or engaging with content from unknown senders will help to raise awareness and decrease the chance of security events inspired by human error.

Tackling the propensity of employees to create security vulnerabilities is one of the most effective ways of building up a complete and comprehensive security posture. Not only will this improve your overall cybersecurity, but it will mean that all the other service tools you employ to bolster your defences will perform to a much higher standard.

Once your security isn’t being undermined by a few wrong clicks by employees, you’ll be in for a much less dramatic 2024.

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