Whether they’re criminals or heroes, hackers in the movies are always portrayed as a glamorous group. When it comes down to the wire, these are the individuals who crack into the ominous megacorporation or hostile foreign government database, hitting the right key just in the nick of time. They either save the day or bring down regimes, empty the digital vault of the Federal Reserve or disable all the power plants in the country. It’s always a genius up against an impenetrable fortress of digital security, but no matter what, they always come out on top.
In real life, it’s rarely that difficult. Sure, if you look at the news, you might believe hackers are close to their Hollywood counterparts, stealing data from the NSA and nabbing millions of customer records from Equifax. But the majority of hacks aren’t against the big dogs; they’re against small to mid-sized businesses. And usually, this doesn’t involve actually hacking into anything. A lot of the time – approximately 60% according to the Harvard Business Review – an unwitting employee accidentally leaves the digital front door open.
The biggest threats to your company aren’t teams of roaming hackers; they’re your employees. Here’s why.
1) They’ll slip up because they don’t know any better.
With the proliferation of technology has come an exponential rise in digital threats of such variety and complexity that it’d be impossible for the average person to keep track of it all. Each of your employees’ lives are a labyrinth of passwords, interconnected online accounts and precious data. If their vigilance slacks at any point, it not only leaves them vulnerable, but it leaves your company vulnerable as well. For this reason, most cyber-attacks come down to a lack of cyber security education.
2) They’ll let you get hacked on purpose.
It’s a sad fact that a huge portion of digital attacks are the result of company insiders exposing data to malicious groups. Whether it’s info vital for your competitive advantage, passwords they can sell to hacker networks to make a quick buck or sensitive data they can make public simply to spite your organization, it’s difficult to protect against a double agent.
3) They’ll trust the wrong person.
For many hacks, little code is needed whatsoever. Instead, hackers are notorious for posing as a trusted member of your own team. And if you believe that you’d be able to spot an impostor from a mile away, you may want to think again. Not only is it easier than ever to crack individual users’ e-mail passwords and login credentials, and personal info is now littered throughout social media. A simple visit to Facebook can give a hacker all they need to know to “social hack” their way into the heart of your business.
4) They’ll miss red flags while surfing the web.
Clickbait is more than a nuisance plaguing your social media feeds. It can be a powerful tool for hackers trolling for easy prey. If an employee doesn’t understand what exactly makes a site or link look dubious, they may open themselves – and your company – to browser exploits or other types of attacks.
5) They’re terrible at passwords.
According to Entreprenuer.com, “3 out of 4 consumers use duplicate passwords, many of which have not been changed in five years or more.” Even more of those passwords are simply weak, inviting easy access for unsavory elements. Many people brush off the importance of strong passwords, but the risks posed by the password “123456” or “password” cannot be overstated.
When it comes to defending your precious assets against digital threats, it can seem impossible to protect yourself at every turn. But there is one way you can make a concrete change that will tighten up your security more than you realize: educating your people. Through a comprehensive security training program, including specific examples of methods hackers use – particularly phishing – you can drastically minimize the risk of an employee accidentally opening up a malicious e-mail or posting sensitive info. When you make a concerted effort to make the entire organization vigilant against cyber-attacks, you’re much less likely to be targeted.