people centric cybersecurity strategies

3 Reasons Executives Need to Build People-centric Cybersecurity Strategies

Cybersecurity is a complex field, and many executives prefer to approach it with complex, technical solutions. Indeed, to protect against digital attacks, organizations do need to arm themselves with digital defenses — but focusing solely on the technical aspects of cybersecurity will leave a company immensely vulnerable because it neglects a fundamental aspect of business and security: people.

When devising a cybersecurity strategy, it is essential that executives keep the thoughts, behaviors, opinions and actions of people in mind, at all times. Here are three major reasons people matter the most to a business’s cybersecurity and what business leaders can do to make their security strategy people-centric.

1. Human Error Has Always Been The Main Cause Of Cyberattacks

Digital systems exist for human use, and the way humans use digital systems will impact their security. Unfortunately, that means that even the most secure network in the world — one with dozens of firewalls and multiple layers of user authentication and several methods of encryption and artificial intelligence–driven threat monitoring— could succumb to a cyberattack due to the actions of a single human user.

Though it may be tempting to believe that it is possible to build a security architecture so strong that human behavior will not impact its effectiveness, this is generally a cybersecurity pipedream.

Research has found that more than 90 percent of all cyberattacks are the result of human error. Some errors involve the disclosure of login credentials to a malicious source; others involve the disabling of organizational security systems for greater efficiency. While most actions are not taken with the intent to cause harm, they do increase an organization’s vulnerability and can lead to a successful cyberattack.

It is negligent to overlook the fact that humans impact system security. Putting people first in cybersecurity strategy helps businesses develop processes that reduce the likelihood of vulnerabilities caused by human users who do not know or care about security.

2. Business Security Teams Are Perpetually Understaffed

Because the field of cybersecurity is relatively new, experienced cybersecurity professionals tend to be hard to find. Though more universities are offering specialization in cybersecurity studies, many of the best cybersecurity workers in the field are self-taught, and the experience necessary to develop effective cybersecurity knowledge and skill takes time for professionals in IT to acquire.

As a result of the high demand of cybersecurity personnel, most trained cybersecurity professionals command higher salaries than typical IT staff.

Because cybersecurity budgets are perpetually lower than what many organizations need to spend to maintain effective security — indeed, 39 percent of CEOs are aware that they have inadequate cybersecurity spending — the fact is that most businesses cannot expect to rely on cybersecurity experts to create and maintain effective cybersecurity measures.

Rather, business leaders need to be confident in the actions and behaviors of their entire staff. To fill the gaps of understaffed business security teams, executives might participate in information technology courses to better understand strategies and techniques for maintaining digital security. Then, technology leaders should find ways to involve the workforce in cybersecurity matters.

3. People Can Function As An Effective Security Perimeter

Finally, traditional cybersecurity strategies are becoming obsolete as more organizations transition to a remote and distributed work environment.

No longer can IT teams draw a digital line between internal operations and the external world; a remote workforce, the widespread outsourcing of critical processes to third-party partners as well as use of public cloud and SaaS applications make the perimeters once meticulously maintained around business data and systems all but moot. There is simply too vast an attack surface for an organization to expect to cover it all effectively forever.

Fortunately, a people-centric security strategy can provide the perimeter that businesses need. If workers are trained to recognize and respond to threats, attacks can be thwarted earlier in their lifecycle, minimizing the damage and maintaining the integrity of the business’s network and data.

Though the boundary between inside and outside the organization is less defined, people associated with the organization can be trusted to maintain its security when they are accounted for in cybersecurity planning.

Technology is an important component of cybersecurity — but it should be neither the only nor the most valued component. People should always be the foundation of a cybersecurity strategy, and the sooner businesses begin equipping their staff with security knowledge and skill, the stronger their organization will be against cyberattacks.

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