Why People-Centric Security and Privacy Programs are Vital

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Modern organizations are a combination of people and technologies that allow them to perform their job functions as productively as possible.

People, however, are not perfect and prone to making mistakes. In an organization that relies on people to support its security and privacy objectives, human error remains a significant factor in cyber-attacks, data breaches, and other threats.

Organizations must acknowledge that technology alone cannot provide foolproof protection. People need to be at the center of security design.

What is People-Centric Security?

People-centric security takes human behavior into consideration when promoting a culture of mutual trust and awareness.  Organizations need to understand the individual, their behavior, and their interactions with technology as critical elements in protecting sensitive data. This approach promotes active participation safeguarding the organization and its users.

Data security policies that impede workflows and a users’ ability to perform business operations on multiple devices without interruption result in productivity losses. They also introduce new risks when users compensate with "creative" workarounds.

A people-centric security policy on data helps maintain the sensitive balance between security and productivity. One key characteristic is that it can be flexible and dynamically enforced based on rich context including but not limited to content, user, device, time, and location.

Education and Awareness

Education and awareness are the cornerstone of effective people-centric security. As organizations work to improve their cybersecurity postures, they should foster a culture of education and awareness by equipping employees with comprehensive cybersecurity training.

Information and tools that help users identify and report suspicious activity include:

  • New and old phishing techniques
  • Social engineering methods
  • Secure browsing habits

User-Centric Technology

Organizations should emphasize providing their users intuitive, user-friendly technology that align with human behavior. By putting the users’ needs and experiences first, companies can reduce friction and resistance to security measures. For example, a secure, user-friendly authentication method that streamlines access control and integrates seamlessly into everyday workflows enhances user acceptance and compliance.

Behavioral Analytics and User Monitoring

While the right technologies enable users, they should also provide visibility into activities that enhance the organization’s monitoring and governance. With behavioral analytics and user monitoring tools that collect and analyze user activity, organizations can set baselines for what “normal” looks like within their environments.

By doing this, they can identify irregular activities that may indicate a potential security incident.  By understanding typical user patterns, organizations can detect deviations, respond swiftly to potential threats, and proactively intervene to mitigate risks.

Three Benefits of a People-Centric Security Design

As organizations add more SaaS applications to their technology stacks, they expand their digital footprint and attack surface. With a people-centric security design, organizations can mitigate risks more effectively and efficiently.

1. Enhanced Threat Detection

Organizations rely primarily on technologies to mitigate their security risks. To respond to the broad array of threats they face, they need to focus on people, too.

By empowering employees to be more vigilant and proactive in detecting potential threats, organizations can strengthen their threat detection capabilities. Human insights and intuition can complement automated security systems, providing a more comprehensive defense against emerging threats.

2. Reduced Insider Threats:

Insider threats can arise from both malicious and accidental user actions. A people-centric approach to security reduces both of these risks. At the accidental level, providing people with the training and technologies they need creates a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. With tools that reinforce training, users are less likely to engage in risky workarounds.

Similarly, when everyone feels that security and privacy are their responsibilities, the organization fosters a culture where insiders are less likely to engage in malicious activities because they understand that their peers take their roles seriously.

3. Increased Incident Response Efficiency

By reducing risk and improving threat detection, organizations also achieve increased incident response efficiency.  When employees are educated and engaged in security practices, they become an invaluable resource in incident response.  For example, prompt reporting of suspicious activities means that security teams can implement security protocols faster. With visibility into potential attack vectors, they can significantly reduce response time and mitigate potential damage.

Bridging the People and Technology Gap for Enhanced Cyber Resilience

To build a robust defense-in-depth security and privacy program, organizations need to understand and address the human layer.

To achieve these objectives, they should rethink security and shift their focus to people-centric security design in the face of new cyber threats. When they are committed to fostering a culture of education and awareness, they also align their cybersecurity technology investments with human behavior in mind so they can fortify their cyber defense posture.

By moving toward a people-centric security architecture, organizations no longer need to view their workforces as a liability but as a vital asset in the fight against cyber threats and data breaches.

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