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What is human error in cybersecurity?

The scope of human error in cybersecurity covers the whole gamut of unintentional actions or even lack of action by users that create vulnerabilities in the system. These actions could include anything from clicking on a malicious link in an email, failure to adhere to safe password practices, or simply leaving your work system or peripherals such as removable storage devices unattended. With workplaces getting more and more complex with a vast range of tools and services that organizations make use of on a regular basis – even a few such oversights could lead to gaping vulnerabilities. Hardly an ideal scenario in a climate where ransomware attacks have seen a spike by over 400% recently. Despite organizations of all sizes spending copious amounts of time and resources into beefing up their security postures, humans remain the weakest link in the security chain. The problem is made even more complicated with criminals using advanced social engineering tactics to compromise employees and organizations into handing over data or credentials without even coding a single line of a malware program. Apex Technology Management can help you build an effective security posture to counter evolving security threats.

Top 6 Human Errors that Impact Data Security

Here are the top 6 human errors that you should be aware of that can impact your business’s cyber security.

Poor Password Hygiene

Companies have tried to combat poor password hygiene with strict password practices. Despite this, many users continue to have weak passwords on both their official and personal accounts. The problem is that with the rising number of data breaches, criminals already have access to a massive number of compromised passwords that only add to their arsenal of offensive weapons. Risky passport practices include reusing passwords, using easy to guess passwords, failing to change passwords periodically, sharing passwords with other people and more. Unfortunately, the riskier a user’s password practices are, the more he or she becomes a liability for the employer organization. Poor password practices always increase the risk of security breaches. Enhancing user awareness through training remains the most dependable way of getting users to be conscious of their password hygiene. Another way out for organizations is to use a reliable password manager software application that can take care of both generating and retrieving user credentials and most importantly, securely storing them in an encrypted database. Using a password manager in conjunction with a password expiration tool is the best way forward for organizations to automate password hygiene and the safety of credentials as much as possible.

Lost or stolen devices

Recent data shows that nearly 60 percent of network breaches happen due to a lost or stolen device. With almost all company equipment carrying sensitive data, this situation could be gravely threatening for organizational data security. Using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution may be your best bet in ensuring BYOD security. Using this kind of solution enables your system administrators to remotely lock or wipe a device in case of emergency. You could also ask all your employees to protect their devices with passcode or fingerprint recognition. In order to further protect your data, you should implement strict user permission and access management on a strictly need-to-know basis. Our cybersecurity division is eminently positioned to help your company build a security-centric culture.

Vulnerability to Phishing attacks

With the rise of ransomware attacks, phishing has become a major source of concern for organizations. Hackers and malicious actors are now using sophisticated strategies to make phishing emails and spoofed websites look as legitimate as possible. Phishing attacks were present in 36% of breaches this year and 11% more than last year. According to 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), Verizon analyzed 79,635 incidents, of which 29,207 met their quality standards and 5,258 were confirmed data breaches, from 88 countries around the world. Staying ahead of this kind of attack is not easy and user awareness remains key to defending the organization. You need to work towards establishing a culture of security within the organization and invest in training that actually produces results. You need to make social engineering situations urgent and real to all users. This is best done through short videos or interactive sessions that recreate real-world situations of the attacks. You should also regularly run phishing simulation tests to test for the effectiveness of your training and user awareness of security policies. This will also allow you to pinpoint the high-risk users who can then be selected for more personalized training. You should also make use of anti-spam and email filtering tools to mitigate risks.

No control on corporate devices access

User sensitivity training should make it clear to all users that work systems should not be shared with anyone outside the corporate network. One way of reiterating this is through implementing a comprehensive information security plan applicable to all employees. You should also take care to implement proper security controls on devices and systems, encrypt data and protect all devices and accounts with passwords. A good place to start is with multifactor authentication (also called 2FA or two-factor authentication). Check out our recent blog post Why Two-Factor Authentication is Your Golden Ticket to Ensuring Data Security to learn more.

Mismanagement of high privileged accounts

With whale phishing becoming rampant and hackers scraping all social accounts to put together highly informed user profiles, even slight miss management of accounts with high privileges can spell doom for your entire network security. The benefit of having access to compromised admin credentials is that hackers can use them to bypass user permissions and access controls on IT systems in order to modify controls or access sensitive data. Defending against such attacks means enforcing the least privilege principle to all accounts and systems wherever possible. Instead of granting carte blanche on administrative rights to multiple accounts, you could try to elevate privileges on an as-needed temporary basis for specific applications and tasks. Implementing multi-factor authentication also proves useful in such cases.


Misdelivery refers to the common practice of users mistakenly sending something to the wrong recipient. While it may seem harmless, this practice actually presents a significant threat to corporate data security. According to Verizon’s 2018 breach report, misdelivery was the fifth most common cause of all cyber security breaches. The scope of error is further heightened with features like auto-suggest that make it easy for any user to accidentally send an email to the wrong addressee. Organizations can avoid accidental data leakage through misdelivery by implementing encryption for all emails with sensitive information. You should also implement a data loss prevention (DLP) solution that monitors events for potential information leakage and has the capability to automatically take action to prevent it.


All recent data on cybersecurity breaches makes it abundantly clear that the majority of data breaches are a result of human error. Not paying attention to your employees’ cybersecurity awareness can have a significantly detrimental effect on your business in the long run. But you can minimize the risk of data breaches with effective training programs such as those offered at Apex Technology Management for employees and right tools to protect the integrity of your data and network.