Why Human Error is the Ultimate Cause of Data Breaches

| Updated on March 27, 2024

Data breaches are dangerous errors that can lead to major consequences. Even though the majority of data breaches happen because of weak passwords, this isn’t the only factor that opens the door for fraudsters to strike. Businesses or governments are also prone to cyberattacks that lead to massive data breaches. That’s why everyone’s at risk, and every small detail or little vulnerability counts.

Without proper security tools or employee training, businesses and people who are unaware of security threats can unknowingly expose themselves to hackers. It’s no secret that most high-profile cyberattacks were caused by human error. The real question remains – how to avoid such reckless mistakes, protect yourself and save your company? Keep on reading to find out. 

What is a Data Breach?

A data breach happens when your files or any sensitive information is accessed without your knowledge. In general, data breaches expose sensitive and protected data to a person that doesn’t have permission to access that data, but there are certain things that you can do after a data breach. Specialists argue that anyone can be at risk of a data breach. For this reason, individuals, and businesses, including high-risk enterprises, should use security measures to protect their data. 

There are two main weaknesses that cause data breaches: that is technology and user behavior, or in other words, human error. The more we get into the digital sphere, the more exposed to cybercrime we become. As we use mobile devices that are connected to other networks, such as mobile banking, for example, more doors and places to slip are created. 

IoT Networks and Data Breaches

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the main proofs that can describe the increasing demand for better security measures. The term describes a network of objects, in other words, technological things that connect and exchange information with other devices in the network. Many smart devices have flaws and lack encryption.

On top of that, today’s users lack good cybersecurity hygiene, which provides hackers with more ways to strike and succeed with data breaches. All it takes is a single mistake or one human error, and the whole network gets compromised. Many speculate that the range of devices is growing, which accelerates the growth of cybersecurity issues. 

Low Security Awareness

Many organizations believe that hackers and their criminal activity are the top security concerns, but in reality, in most cases, their staff causes data breaches. A recent survey showed that 94% of companies have had a data breach incident over the past year, with human error being the main cause of such damages. The most common factor in data breaches is that humans tend to carelessly handle data. Some examples illustrating this type of behavior include:

  • Releasing private, company, or personal information unintentionally. 
  • Sending emails to the wrong recipient. 
  • Misusing the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) feature. This function is used to send group emails to various recipients in order to hide that a copy of the email was sent to some of these addresses. 

When it comes to human error, a way to minimize the risks of data breaches is for companies to categorize different data types. For instance, information can be labeled as internal-only, restricted, public, or confidential. In this type of scenario, the company should add specific guidelines that would help employees understand how to handle different types of information better to avoid data breaches. 

Outdated Software 

Outdated and vulnerable software versions expose organizations to various risks. While businesses often take additional safety precautions online, criminals work on malicious third-party software that would make data breaches an easy route for them. Since most businesses rely on different software apps to run their internal operations, it’s important to train employees and have strict policies regarding the use of the software. 

An easy way to resolve issues regarding third-party software is to monitor software vendors and frequently review released updates to patch bugs. Auto-updates help the staff to run the updates regularly and avoid software vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches. Also, it’s important to remember not to download any software without the team’s approval. If you install suspicious apps without permission from your IT team, chances are that you’re exposing your organization to a data breach. 

Common Methods Used to Breach Data

Technology and cybersecurity aren’t a new phenomenon. Having that in mind leads us to wonder why data breach is still such a common issue today. One of the key aspects that enhance the chances of cybersecurity threats is the fact that people ignore internal policies and guidelines regarding various security measures.

A huge increase in data breaches was observed during the global pandemic. Even though scammers are getting more sophisticated, they use the same methods to breach data. Some main examples are: 

  • Phishing: This type of attack happens when bad actors try to trick you into clicking on a harmful link; this way, handing over access to important information. 
  • Malware: Criminals search for security gaps that would be perfect for them to place malware. It infects the operating system, hardware, software, or any server of your network. Malware helps criminals steal data without getting caught. 
  • Brute-force Attacks: Hackers use brute force attacks to install different tools to guess passwords easier. Online criminals can speed up brute-force attacks using malware. In cases when the credentials are weak, it only takes a few seconds for them to be cracked. 

How can You Avoid Human Error?

Any cyber-attack can be prevented by minimizing the chances of human error. To reach this goal, many companies implement digital tools. Since people can’t review and detect fraud and suspicious activity so swiftly, AI-powered solutions come in handy. For example, innovative Business Verification services help organizations to determine if they are partnering with legitimate businesses; this way, preventing fraud and safeguarding their data.

Automatic software scans and runs analysis of multiple data points, providing detailed reports and showing information regarding the company’s employees, subsidiaries, or advisors. Such smart tools save time, simplify the work for people, and at the same time, minimize human error. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s natural to make mistakes. Despite that, every little mistake counts when we talk about cybersecurity. Organizations that want to minimize human error need to invest in automated technological solutions that would simplify the processes for humans. Another important step that is inevitable is employee training. Once you and your staff know the basics of data security, you’ll be prepared to handle data properly.

Chitra Joshi

Content Writer & Marketer

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