June 6, 2022

The Importance of Mitigating Human Error in Cybersecurity

The classic expression, “to err is human, to forgive, divine” is a lot harder for C-suite executives of CPA firms to practice when navigating the impacts human errors have on cybersecurity breaches. Not surprisingly, cracks in cybersecurity caused by human mistakes are a very common occurrence in work settings. Unfortunately, human-caused cybersecurity issues have the potential to significantly compromise CPA firms financially as well as damage their stellar reputations.

C-suite executives and information security professionals need to recognize the immense role humans play in cyber breaches to lessen these influences. This blog discusses the magnitude of human-caused cybersecurity violations, reviews the most common types of cybersecurity compromises, and offers strategies to mitigate human errors that cause cybersecurity issues.

How Common are Human-Caused Cybersecurity Breaches?

A global study, the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, researched thousands of IBM customers in 130 countries and concluded that “human error was a major contributing cause in 95% of all breaches.” In other words, if human mistakes were not a factor, 19 out of 20 cybersecurity breaches would not have occurred. Similar studies (although not as comprehensive) have corroborated IBM’s research. Clearly, human errors play a pivotal role in cybersecurity breaches. Understanding what is meant by “human errors” in cybersecurity research is an important first step. 

How is Human Error Defined in Cybersecurity Terms?

Before delving into the actual human errors that contribute to cybersecurity breaches, let’s define what “human error” means in the context of cybersecurity lingo.

  • Unintentional actions. Human errors in cybersecurity terms refers to lack of action or unintentional actions by employees which permits a security breach to occur.
  • Lapse in skills. Some human errors in cybersecurity are called skill-based human errors. Employees exhibiting skill-based errors make mistakes while completing familiar tasks which they know how to complete but simply act carelessly or experience a slip-up.
  • Unaware or not trained. Employees who do not have the required information, or who are not trained on a specific task, make poor decisions that can lead to cybersecurity breaches. These occurrences are called knowledge or decision-based human errors. These errors happen because employees do not have the knowledge base necessary to avoid risky cybersecurity behaviors.

Categorizing the different types of human errors into skill-based or decision-based issues helps C-suite executives understand whether an employee has had the necessary knowledge to avoid a breach or was just simply careless. 

Which Human Errors Create Vulnerabilities in Cybersecurity?

CPA firms are especially vulnerable due to the extent of sensitive client information they possess. Several human errors can cause cybersecurity breaches. Here are a few primary human errors that contribute to cybersecurity breaches. 

  • Connecting to a public WI-FI network. A major cause of data breaches occurs when employees use devices that contain sensitive data on an unsecure network. Surprisingly, according to the Proofpoint 2020 User Risk Report, 45% of employees in the United States believe public WI-FI is safe if they are in a location they trust. However, cyberhackers are able to access confidential, valuable information if a user is on a vulnerable network. 
  • Working remotely from unsecure networks. Employees working outside the traditional office setting and removing direct IT support can fail to install software security properly or update security software when needed. Failure to patch a software security vulnerability can compromise an operating system. 
  • Creating weak passwords. Cybercriminals are able to guess employees’ passwords if they are weak. In fact, according to a 2021 data breach investigation report completed by Verizon, 61% of data breaches happen because of compromised or stolen user credentials. Reusing passwords across various accounts or storing passwords unsafely can lead to cybersecurity breaches. 
  • Sending an email erroneously. A common, human-caused cybersecurity breach is emailing the wrong person. Misdirected emails which get into the wrong hands can cause loss of data, may lead to theft, and certainly violate a client’s confidentiality. 
  • Clicking on phishing emails. Employees opening a nefarious email is a common human error which can lead to cybersecurity breaches such as ransomware attacks. 
  • Approve false authentication attempts. Account takeovers are a trending cyber security issue where a hacker gains access to an online account by acting as the real user. They trick users into clicking on a false authentication attempt. It’s crucial to remind employees to never accept an authentication push notification they did not initiate themselves. Cyber criminals may have managed to obtain their login credentials, but two-factor authentication stands as a second line of defense to keep them out.

Many seemingly innocuous human actions can lead to dire cybersecurity breaches for CPA firms.

How Can CPA Firms Mitigate Human Error in Cybersecurity Breaches?

Although totally eliminating human error contributing to cybersecurity breaches is likely an impossible feat, CPA firms can take steps to mitigate human errors that cause cybersecurity breaches. 

  • Offer effective cybersecurity awareness training. CPA firms should create a culture of consistent security awareness to reduce the risk of cybersecurity breaches caused by human errors. Also, employees should receive knowledge so they have a philosophy of active cybersecurity decision-making. 
  • Train employees about cybersecurity risks. Educating employees about cybercrime such as phishing, malware and ransomware attacks is an effective strategy. 
  • Improve the password process. CPA firms should implement two-factor authentication to strengthen password security. Require employees to create strong passwords which they keep secure, confidential and do not reuse. 

CPA firms have to be vigilant and creative to mitigate human errors to prevent cybersecurity breaches. Protecting CPA firms from cybercrime requires a multifaceted approach with a variety of preventive actions

Cybersecurity is an extremely challenging part of operating a successful CPA firm. Mitigating human errors in cybersecurity requires a multipronged approach with ongoing vigilance and creativity. Enlisting the assistance of a premier cloud-hosting provider to help circumnavigate the human error component in cybersecurity breaches is a smart decision in lessening the human aspect element of cyber breaches.

How Can Cetrom Help Reduce Human Errors in Cybersecurity Breaches?

Partnering with Cetrom, a cloud-based provider who excels in cybersecurity, is a preventive, first-line defense which C-suite executives can use to protect their firms from human errors which cause cyber breaches. Cetrom provides cloud-based services and cybersecurity to CPA firms. In fact, their business model is designed to offer services exclusively to CPA firms. Cetrom is a proven IT provider and offers the following experience and knowledge to help CPA firms combat cybercrime and mitigate human error in cybersecurity breaches. 

  • Offers a multi-layered security approach. The cloud-based solutions provided by Cetrom include advanced artificial intelligence security technologies. Cetrom installs a variety of software designed to stop cyber breaches. Interestingly, Cetrom’s software is able to learn users’ habits and daily activities and can identify when an anomaly may be present
  • Provides cybersecurity training. Cetrom offers customized cybersecurity training to teach best practices to employees. The training curriculum includes data security procedures, building strong passwords, how to stay secure when working remotely and on mobile devices, and learning how to recognize cyber threats. 
  • Helps CPA firms create a cybersecurity culture. Cetrom helps ensure employees understand the importance of keeping CPA firms secure given the high financial value of their data. Cetrom offers ongoing cybersecurity education, reviews of cybersecurity principles, and tests of their training programs. 

Contact Cetrom today to have all your questions answered about available cybersecurity training and steps to create a culture of cybersecurity for your CPA firm. 

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