Technology is driving change around the world, helping businesses make smarter and faster decisions with never-before-seen efficiency.

But everything comes at a price.

For businesses of all sizes, that price is a growing cybersecurity risk. While technological innovation is impressive – like how emails can reach people across the world – technology has opened up endless cybersecurity risks.

You might think your biggest threat is not having a firewall, but that common misconception is off the mark. Employees are the biggest cybersecurity risk to any business, no matter the industry.

Cybersecurity Risk is Real for Employees

The prevalence of cyberattacks is on the rise. In 2021, businesses reported a 50% increase in cyberattacks per week compared to the previous year. And, 61% of small businesses may not have the resources to match cybersecurity efforts in larger corporations.

The threat is real, and the cost is high. IBM reports that the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million dollars. Especially for small to medium organizations, that’s a big liability.

Why the Threat of a Cyber Attack is Growing

The easy answer for the spike in cyberattacks is that our world is becoming increasingly connected. As individuals and businesses plug into the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G connectivity, the surface area for a breach grows.

Some of the top threats to your cybersecurity include gaps in network security, sensitive data storage practices (like a failure to encrypt certain data sources). But the most widespread reason is the lack of knowledge among employees who use the technology.

For example, did you know that your emails are not protected by Microsoft? It’s a common misconception that applies to many different types of cloud-based data.

Employees pose the most significant cybersecurity issue, and yet they are the most challenging to overcome. The truth is that your employees are your biggest cybersecurity risk, and here’s why:

  • Phishing Emails: Any employee in the company with access to email can inadvertently click on a link or download a file from a phishing email that appears to come from a genuine person or company.
  • Mobile Workforce: The growing demand for mobility is opening new doors as remote employees connect to company networks using unsecured wireless networks.
  • Poor Data Practices: Many entry-level and lower-level employees work directly with sensitive customer data like names, addresses, and credit card details. Yet, many companies fail to communicate or enforce strict data protection practices. A general lack of knowledge for handling sensitive data easily leads to putting it in the wrong hands.
  • App Policies: Today, mobile apps are everywhere and used for just about everything. Many of your employees probably use timers, calendars, to-do lists, and other trackers. The problem is, not all apps are what they seem. Some third-party apps are secretly siphoning data in the background, which spells big trouble if the app has been downloaded to a company smartphone.

Your employees are your biggest cybersecurity risk because they are human. People make mistakes; they get fooled by an official-sounding email or an overzealous attempt to impress a new boss.

“The end-user is the #1 way a company becomes compromised.”

- Joe Rudolph, Privacy and Security Officer at Ceeva


A New Trend in Cybersecurity Breaches

Simple ignorance about the potential dangers of using connected technology is the main reason that your employees are your biggest cybersecurity risk. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know this well, and they’ve upped their game to target the sitting ducks in your organization.

One of the biggest trends we’ve seen lately involves new employees in your organization and the networking platform LinkedIn. It’s a natural gateway. The social media platform is geared towards professionals, and making connections with new introductions is common.

New employees are also eager to highlight their new positions on the platform, labeling themselves as an ideal target. To make it worse, they are also eager to cement their place in your organization and are likely to respond to networking connections that appear to have a relationship with your company.

All-in-all, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Tip: Add a cybersecurity module to your onboarding process that specifically addresses this, and other common trends.

What Can You Do to Mitigate Employee Cybersecurity Risks?

Common measures to address the risks that employees pose to a company's cybersecurity include things you have probably seen before, like email filters or flagging for external emails. While these are good steps to take in theory, they are never enough.

Truthfully, humans are prone to making errors because we subconsciously filter out information. For example, if we routinely see a flag for an external email and it’s safe to open 99% of the time, we will begin to ignore the message.

So, what can you do? Start with the basics and lay a good foundation for security, including establishing:

  • Ongoing cybersecurity training for your employees
  • Secure remote access for remote employees
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Managed patching and software updates
  • Endpoint security/Anti-virus

We recommend that you take advantage of filters and messaging, but don’t rely exclusively on these measures. The bigger picture requires consistency and diligence. Here’s a simple approach to cover your bases with the above suggestions:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Communicate the Plan
  3. Enforce the Plan
  4. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat

Take the time to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan and review it regularly to ensure it continues to adapt to the technology your company has. Consult a cybersecurity firm to get an outside perspective and ensure that you’re not missing any vulnerabilities.

But, it’s never enough to just have a plan. Follow through and communicate your plan with thorough cybersecurity training during the onboarding process and at least annually thereafter for every employee in the company with technology access.

Then, take your plan full circle with clear enforcement activities. Develop an incident reporting process and hold your people responsible for prioritizing the need for due diligence on every incident – big or small. IBM also reports that it takes an average of 280 days to discover a breach. That’s a long time to siphon sensitive data.

With a good plan in place that is well-communicated and enforced company-wide, you’ll be in better shape. But the need to evolve never stops. Cybersecurity is a continual process, and you’ll need to devote resources to staying ahead of trends and changes with a continual process to update your plans, procedures, processes, and training.

It All Comes Down To Your Employees

The number one vulnerability in any company is its users. You can use protections like email filtering or risk-based email flags, but you can’t entirely remove the human element from the equation. Cybercriminals know that employees, especially new employees on LinkedIn, are an easy way to breach your network.

All it takes is one phishing email, one click, one unsuspecting download, and you could have a problem. The best way to protect your company is by taking a strategic approach to cybersecurity, making IT policies and routine training an integral part of your company culture because your employees are your biggest cybersecurity threat but unplugging the technology is simply not an option.

That’s why a dedicated MSP IT team is crucial to help train your employees to make the right decision, which is most often deciding to do nothing at all.

Ceeva can help reduce your cybersecurity risk with capable IT support and cybersecurity training. Set up a training and testing program with Ceeva’s cybersecurity experts today, and protect your business from risks!

Free Cybersecurity Essentials Handbook for Small Organizations