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Train Your Employees to Think for Themselves in Data Security

Employers have learned (the hard way) that one of the biggest security threats in the organization is their own staff.

A report published by Ipswitch looks at data breach causes to find out how rogue employees rank. An interesting find is that up to 75% of data breaches result from insider threats, while a separate report by Veriato suggests that 90% of cybersecurity experts feel that their company is vulnerable to insider attacks. In fact, about 50% of the 472 professionals surveyed said they had suffered these attacks in the previous 12 months.

Deliberate or not, these threats are very real and as heavily as companies might invest in data security software, they are always going to be vulnerable because they continually ignore a large component of realizing fewer cybersecurity threats.

Since employees (insiders) have access to company information, they are technically a bigger danger to data security than the third party cyber-criminals who use all manner of innovative ways to gain access to personal data.

A curious business owner wants to know: Why must I involve employees in implementing data security when they have been shown to be a weak point in the same strategy?

1. Social engineering transcends security tools
Human error is often the weakest link in an otherwise ideal chain. From technology to literature, social engineering is the big boss you have to beat after meeting all the other mini-bosses.

By definition, social engineering involves the use of psychological tricks to manipulate people into revealing sensitive information about themselves. For an organization, once the hacker has your employee at this point, they can gain access to all the areas the employee can typically access. Through social engineering security awareness you can help your employees avoid the three commonest security scams thereby protecting your company as well: identity theft; vishing; and baiting.

Without adequate education on social engineering and covering that loophole, security tools are almost useless.

2. It’s part of their responsibility
Apart from preventing the catastrophic aftermath of social engineering, data security is the responsibility of every employee in the organization in this sense: if consumers expect organizations to protect their data, isn’t it the responsibility of employees to make sure the data doesn’t land in the wrong hands?

Dropbox's 2012 incident, during which hackers reportedly stole data belonging to over 60 million of Dropbox's clients at the time, was attributed to employee negligence.

As reported, the hackers who used the password of the employee were able to access the company portal by reusing a password from the LinkedIn breach of the same year that exposed the emails and passwords of 117 million LinkedIn users.

Such an example shows that as a company, you can still unwillingly betray your customers. While Dropbox wasn’t entirely to blame, one of their employees reusing passwords was a great insight into the company’s internal security standards and more importantly, a good example for all employees on password don’ts.

3. It is now a common regulatory requirement
Through internet security awareness training, organizations are required to equip their staff with knowledge about data security. Some of the laws, regulations and industry codes include HIPAA, FTC Red Flags Rule and PCI DSS among others. While many SMEs don’t do any training to remain compliant, many conduct the training to avoid cyber-attacks.

These tips will help you implement a great training program:

  • Diversify your training methods. Have a mix of training techniques at your disposal including classrooms, videos, team discussions, newsletters, posters, etc.
  • Educate often. Conduct regular training in monthly, quarterly, or annual cycles.
  • There’s no one size that fits all. Different members at different levels will start learning at equally different points.
  • Don’t ignore industry regulations.

Don’t be like the owner who delegates the role of data security to themselves because it’s “too important.” If you really want to be stress-free, train your employees well and promote a culture of information security.


Joseph Chukwube is a young tech enthusiast and an experienced content marketer. He is the Founder/CEO at Real SEO Growth, a link building agency, and Dream Chase Achieve, a lifestyle and self-improvement blog.


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