NewsJanuary 17, 2018 @ 9:55 AM

Roughly Half of Cybersecurity Incidents Due to Employee Negligence and Weak IT Security Policies, Report Says

Human error remains one of the top vulnerabilities leading to cyberattacks, according to recent research. A new report from Kaspersky Lab found that employee carelessness accounted for 46 percent of breaches in the past year, suggesting an urgent need for stronger policies and increased security awareness.

Weak IT Security Policies Put SMBs at Risk

Unsurprisingly, only 12 percent of the nearly 8,000 employees surveyed said they fully understood their organization’s IT security policies. Another 24 percent said their organization lacks a concrete cybersecurity framework altogether.

In addition, roughly half (49 percent) of employees said they consider cybersecurity to be a shared responsibility. This is particularly troublesome for small and midsized businesses (SMBs), many of which have employee-owned devices on their networks and inadequate or nonexistent policies to govern them. Others divide responsibility inefficiently among the IT department and nontechnical workers.

For these reasons, SMBs have historically been prime targets for common cyberthreats such as ransomware. Lack of skilled IT employees and financial resources only exacerbates this problem.

Improving Security Awareness

The study also noted that executives, HR leaders and finance specialists were among the most at-risk employees. According to TechRepublic, these employees’ access to sensitive information makes them particularly valuable targets for threat actors.

“The issue of unaware staff can be a major challenge to overcome, especially for smaller businesses where a cybersecurity culture is still being developed,” Vladimir Zapolyansky, head of SMB business at Kaspersky Lab, said in a press release. He further noted that businesses should focus on increasing security awareness among employees and implement solutions that are simple enough for nontechnical workers to use but powerful enough to protect the organization from advanced cyberthreats.

The SMB Security Conundrum

The security conundrum facing SMBs is complex, since effective solutions require significant time, effort and financial resources, which are rare commodities. Still, the main issue revealed in the Kaspersky report — low security awareness among employees — is something all organizations can and should improve with better engagement among top leadership and better communication between security professionals and nontechnical employees.

Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.