10 Tips for Protecting Your Business from Human Error Data Breaches

Human error data breaches occur more than you might think, costing businesses millions each year. So, how can your company avoid this? Find out here…

Did you know that one of the biggest causes for data breaches is human error? That’s right – forget about all the complicated hacking. Many data breaches occur due to a misplaced document or dodgy email practice.

In fact, many of the biggest data breaches of all time, including that of Facebook, Exactis, and more, occurred due to an accidental leakage of data. Clearly, there’s a lot that even some of the biggest companies around could be doing to avoid this.

In this article, we’ll be detailing what human error data breaches are, and what the most common reasons for these breaches are. We’ll then be providing 10 easy ways your company can avoid a breach in this way. Take a look…

What is a Human Error Data Breach?

Human error data breaches are – you guessed it – data breaches caused by human mistakes. These vary from other types of data breaches, which occur due to hackers making their way into sensitive company files through the backend.

The latter can be avoided to an extent, through the use of anti-malware software, and secure networks. That said, if these interfaces aren’t utilised properly, and people are careless with company data, there’s no hope!

Human error data breaches are the greatest cause of breaches out there, causing a whopping 90 percent, or more, of them! Clearly, the importance of avoiding them can’t be overstated…

What Are the Most Common Reasons for Human Error Data Breaches?

As a company owner, it’s important you understand the many ways in which you or your employees could fall victim to a human error data breach. Some of the main ways in which these occur include:

  • Falling for phishing (spam texts, emails or phone calls)
  • Giving unauthorised users access to work devices
  • Poor password hygiene
  • Mis delivery of post
  • Sending private information and data to the wrong person’s email address
  • Misplacement of important documents
  • Lacking knowledge of cyber security
  • Not working on the secure company network

Especially whilst working from home, these issues have been compounded tenfold. People simply don’t have the training and knowledge required to manage their company data effectively. This is leaving companies at risk of data exposure, breach of GDPR, fines, court cases, and loss of customer loyalty, to name a few consequences.

10 Ways to Avoid Human Error Data Breaches

With this in mind, there’s no need to fret. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can prepare your employees to work from home, and in the office, to avoid data breaches. These 10 tips should be a good place to start…

1.   Implement Clear Policies

There’s absolutely no use in implementing all the secure systems if people don’t know how and when to use them. So, in order to ensure you get the maximum benefits out of your systems, put clear policies in place for employees.

These policies should dictate how and when to use the secure networks and encryption systems. It should also highlight the importance of protecting client and company data, ensuring all staff understand the consequences of a potential breach.

2.   Train Staff

In the spirit of implementing clear policies, the best way to get these across should be regular staff training. This training should include topics such as:

  • GDPR
  • Data handling
  • Secure passwords
  • How to dispose of documents
  • How and when to use cyber security measures
  • Updating computers regularly (when prompted)

At the very least, you should make this training part of your new-starter induction process. In an ideal world, though, regularly updating staff on these company policies would work wonders.

3.   Have a Fail-Safe in Place

Especially whilst working from home, it’s important that employees know what steps to take if their cyber security measures fail. For example, say they can’t get on the secure network – perhaps they should notify a senior member of staff to work through it together. These processes shouldn’t be neglected when technology isn’t on your side.

4.   Ensure Staff Use Work Devices Responsibly

Having secure devices won’t work if employees are careless with them. For example, they might leave their laptop open for a family member to see, so they must understand the risks of this.

They should also be made aware of the risks of using work laptops for personal use, for example for movie streaming. This can leave sensitive work files available to hackers. Training will help staff to understand the risks of not working responsibly, so this should all be part of the educational process.

5.   Have Processes in Place for Data-Handling in Work

There should also be a process in place for handling data, most importantly sending emails. If emails are sent containing incorrect files or with all email recipients visible, this could lead to a drastic breach of sensitive data to your whole contact list. So, in order to avoid this, an email process could include:

  • Send test emails whenever a mass email is being sent out to spot any potential breaches.
  • Ensure it becomes a habit to check and double-check recipients before sending an email.
  • Make sure all staff can recognise malicious emails.
  • Train staff on how and when to use encrypted email software.

6.   Have Processes in Place for Data-Handling Outside of Work

There should also be processes for data-handling outside of the workplace. This is usually the case for people who travel often for work, or visit clients in their homes or offices. After all, even one misplaced document on a train or in an office can lead to an expensive lawsuit. So, some steps could include:

  • Ensuring documents are with you safely at all times.
  • Once employees realise they have misplaced the documents, they should act immediately to rectify the situation.

7.   Encourage the Use of Strong Passwords

Despite warnings surrounding the use of weak passwords, many people still use ones which can be easily guessed. In fact, some of the most common passwords out there are still “123456”, “qwerty”, and “Password”! These can be hacked in a matter of seconds, leaving sensitive information open for all to see.

So, staff should be trained on the importance of using strong passwords throughout their work devices and apps. They really shouldn’t underestimate this.

8.   Provide Employees with the Means to Protect Data

Employees should be provided with the means to protect their company and client data, even whilst working from home. For example, something as simple as providing members of staff with shredders to dispose of documents safely is paramount. It’s these very simple investments, which may seem obvious, that are ignored, but should be a priority.

9.   Ensure All Staff Remain on the Secure Network Where Possible

There’s no point in having a secure network if nobody uses it. So, make sure staff know when to be on it, and how to use it, as well as what to do if they can’t get on it.

10. Making Sure Work Devices Aren’t Left Unattended

Especially whilst working from home, there is a risk of data falling into the hands of family members and friends. So, where possible, devices shouldn’t be left unattended.

That said, sometimes you may need to head to the loo or to make a cup of tea. So, to combat this, all work devices should be set up to lock automatically after a certain amount of unused time. This way, they should remain protected to an extent.

Ready to Protect Your Company from Human Error Data Breaches?

As you can see, there are so many ways companies can protect their data from being accidentally leaked. These tips may seem obvious, but you may be surprised to learn that so many companies still don’t have the bare minimum in place to avoid simple leaks.

We hope this article has shone a light on the importance of protecting data in these very simple ways. We wish you luck in your next steps.

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