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Employees the 'weakest link' within an organisation's cyber security defence

03 Apr 2017

Employees are fast becoming the weakest link in the defence against cyber criminals. That’s according to Sean Duca, the vice president and regional chief security officer, Asia Pacific of Palo Alto Networks.

“Successful attacks often involve poor processes or human error. To reduce an organisation’s threat surface, the focus of regular employee training needs to shift from reaction to prevention,” he explains.

“Companies need to put themselves ahead of emerging threats.”

Duca says there are certain ways businesses can protect themselves against such threats. One way, in particular, is incorporating security awareness into the organisational culture.

“Businesses with strong security processes are still vulnerable to innocent mistakes and human error. Employees become agents of a malware attack when they simply click on a link in an email they may have received from an internal team member or outside contact,” he explains.

“Attackers are constantly developing new techniques to break into networks, including targeting employees in areas that may be less aware of the risks.”

Duca adds that it’s incumbent on all employees to take responsibility for their cyber practices, this must include a top down approach. If an executive doesn’t take their security seriously, their employees won’t.

“This includes being aware of the possibility for legitimate websites to be hacked and the increase of compromised websites targeting users with specific interests,” he says.

Another way is for organisations to move beyond a compliance-driven approach.

“Compliance-driven approaches have proven to be ineffective for organisations when used for employee security training. Businesses should focus on educating employees on how to protect their personal data, therefore encouraging employees to enact further security-orientated practices in the workplace,” he explains.

“Gamifying will help make the training process more exciting and engaging for employees, increasing employee awareness of cyber security practices, including how to deal with phishing emails correctly.”

The last way that Duca details, is to limit the number of employees with administrative access.

“Only those with appropriate clearance should be able to access files. Giving all employees blanket access means attackers only need to successfully infiltrate once to have full access to a business’s entire system,” he says.

“By ingraining cybersecurity practices within organisational culture, introducing new ways of training, limiting access to only those with authority, and educating employees to practice safe and secure behaviour online, the cyber risk for businesses can be greatly reduced.”

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