There is a well-established perception that human error is one of the main causes of cyber incidents in business. But things are not as black and white. The state of an organization’s cybersecurity is more complicated than that and more factors come into the equation. With this in mind, Kaspersky conducted a study to find out the opinions of IT Security professionals working for SMEs and Enterprises worldwide on the impact people have on cybersecurity in a company. The research was aimed at gathering information about different groups of people influencing cybersecurity, considering both internal staff, and external actors.
The Kaspersky study revealed that, in addition to genuine errors, information security policy violations by employees were one of the biggest problems for companies. Respondents from organizations all over the world claimed that intentional actions to break the cybersecurity rules were made by both non-IT and IT employees in the last two years. They said policy violations such as these by IT security officers caused 12% of the cyber incidents in the last two years. Other IT professionals and their non-IT colleagues brought about 11% and 8% of cyber incidents respectively when they breached security protocols.
In terms of individual employee behavior, the most common problem is that employees deliberately do what is forbidden and, conversely, they fail to perform what’s required. Thus, respondents claim that a quarter (25%) of cyber incidents in the last two years occurred due to the use of weak passwords or failure to change them in a timely manner. The other cause of almost one quarter (24%) of cybersecurity breaches were the result of staff visiting unsecured websites. Another 21% report they faced cyber incidents because employees did not update the system software or applications when it was required.
Using unsolicited services or devices is another major contributor to intentional information security policy violations. Nearly one quarter (24%) of companies suffered cyber incidents because their employees used unauthorized systems for data sharing. Employees in 21% of companies intentionally accessed data through unauthorized devices, whilst 20% of staff in other businesses sent data to personal email addresses. Another reported action was the deployment of shadow IT on work devices – 11% of respondents indicate that this led to their cyber incidents.
Alarmingly, respondents admit that, besides the irresponsible behavior already mentioned, 20% of malicious actions were committed by employees for personal gain. Another interesting finding was that intentionally malicious information security policy violations by employees were a relatively big issue in financial services, as 34% of respondents in this sector reported.
“Along with external cybersecurity threats, there are many internal factors that can lead to incidents in any organization. As statistics show, employees from any department, whether it's non-IT specialists or IT Security professionals, can negatively influence cybersecurity both intentionally and unintentionally. That is why, it is important to consider methods of preventing information security policy violations when ensuring security, i.e. to implement an integrated approach to cybersecurity. According to our research, in addition to 26% of cyber incidents being caused by information security policies violation, 38% of breaches occur due to human mistakes. As the numbers are alarming, it is necessary to create a cybersecurity culture in an organization from the get-go by developing and enforcing security policies, as well as raising cybersecurity awareness among employees. Thus, the staff will approach the rules more responsibly and clearly understand the possible consequences of their violations.” comments Alexey Vovk, Head of Information Security at Kaspersky.
The full report and more insights on the human impact on cybersecurity in business are available via the link.
To keep your company’s infrastructure safe from the consequences of employees’ information security policies violations, Kaspersky recommends:
 The survey was conducted across 19 countries: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UAE, UK and USA.