As data breaches become more common and cyber security emerges as one of the most important considerations for large organizations in the information age, cost-effective methods of reducing security threats are heavily sought after. Luckily, human firewalls are a great addition to traditional security measures that can strengthen the weakest links in the company, reduce data loss and theft, and maintain a secure environment with reduced technological intervention.
A human firewall is a commitment of a group of people within an organization to follow best security practices. This includes reporting data breaches, suspicious activity, and other vigilant actions that can prevent security hazards. Sometimes a Security Champion is present in a human firewall, but it is not mandatory. A Security Champion spreads awareness and educates an organization on best practices, so it is a common role in successful human firewall structures.
Who Should be Included in a Human Firewall?
A human firewall includes a specific group of employees working within a company that collaborates within the same systems. They should be educated about security best practices and have ongoing cybersecurity education. Once trained, these individuals could report suspicious activity.
There is much more to security than human firewalls, but it's a cost-effective step to maintain efficient and secure data practices. Most businesses that value safety aims to include all staff in a human firewall, and any companies that completely lack one leave themselves open to security threats due to human error.
Top Cyber Security Threats: Reasons for Human Firewalls
As a human firewall is made to keep an organization and its data secure, the chief concern shared by the human firewall is the status of the organization's cybersecurity defenses. This includes security policies, software systems, methods of training employees, and whether the company requires multi-factor authentication, among other things. Some of the main events of concern for organizations include phishing attacks, phone scams, malware, and device theft.
Phishing is the process of sending messages, such as emails, to personnel within an organization to trick them into leaking sensitive information. It relies solely on human error, wherein team members unknowingly send data like passwords, often via personal devices.
The dubious nature of phishing scams can make them hard to recognize as cyber threats. The security team may not recognize that a phishing email isn't actually official correspondence from the CEO.
Thieves take advantage of social engineering and disguise themselves as a website or individual that the team already trusts, so it's important to train employees to spot a fake email or website.
Phone Scams: Cyber Attacks over the Phone
While it's much less common in organizations than a phishing attack, some cybercriminals will use a phone call to trick employees into sending sensitive information. This usually takes the form of a fake customer support or tech support call, and it's important to conduct security training to teach the team to spot these fake calls.
Although cyber attacks by phone are much less common, a security breach made this way could be just as detrimental. It's crucial to remember that a cybersecurity threat environment exists any time information is exchanged.
Unfortunately, it's not unlikely that you or your team members will eventually download malware throughout regular work. Sometimes it will appear as a popup, in which case, well-trained employees can avoid falling victim. However, it's likely that a compromised website or disguised download link will eventually spawn malware on your devices, even without notable human error.
It's a good idea to maintain updated security tools that can scan for malware and enforce security policies that reduce the chances of a suspicious download. Human firewalls may include individuals using antivirus software to run malware checks frequently on devices and networks that store valuable or sensitive data.
Without anti-theft protection, a personal or company device may eventually be stolen. This is a cyber security threat that is difficult to avoid. There are ways to reduce the chances that a stolen device can be used to steal information, but the risk will exist in almost any case.
Structured and ongoing education about securing devices with sensitive information, such as biometric locks, is essential. Members of a strong human firewall can keep each other secure by making sure everyone's devices are difficult to access without permission. This way, sensitive data may be kept safe even in an unavoidable theft.
How to Build a Strong Human Firewall?
If it's so important to have a human firewall as an extra layer of security, you may be wondering how to ensure it's capable of preventing cyber attacks. A successful human firewall acts as a supplement to an active security system, and such a human firewall requires a few primary practices to work optimally.
Education and Training
Perhaps the most important aspect of building a human firewall is education and training. If the team isn't educated on cyber security, how will it prevent a cyber attack? Simply notifying every member of the human firewall about phishing attacks, malware risks, and best security practices, data breach risks go down significantly.
It only takes one flaw in the security system to let a vital employee or customer information out into the hands of criminals, so it's important to strengthen the weakest link of the human firewall.
Two-Factor Authentication And Multi-Factor Authentication
In addition to keeping devices more secure with biometric locks, another great practice to improve the organization's security is to keep every sensitive account locked behind at least two factors. This means that in addition to a password, a temporary code from a cell phone number, email address, or authentication app will be needed to log in.
This eliminates another human factor because even when social engineering bests a team member, their password isn't the last line of defense. It's also especially useful when a significant amount of the team is in remote working environments, as it's more difficult to keep security tight on so many separate networks.
Company Issued Devices
Another wise commitment when building a human firewall is to minimize the number of personal devices used. Not only can this ensure that all devices are covered with adequate anti-theft protection, but it can also ensure that antivirus software, malware protections, network security, and monitoring are handled regularly.
Maintaining company-issued devices across a large team can be difficult or even unachievable, especially if many of them work remotely. In this case, the members of the human firewall should do their best to take best practices to their own devices for the sake of themselves as well as the organization's security.
A great way to boost participation in a voluntary human firewall program is to offer incentives to those who maintain best practices or report vulnerabilities and threats. An effective incentive doesn't have to be large, simply recognizing a team member for doing the right thing can go a long way in boosting morale.
What Makes a Good Human Firewall?
A well-designed security system will help your team protect yourselves from data loss, hacking, and exploitation. A strong human firewall will utilize several practices like careful browsing, intentional downloads, biometric locks, and multi-factor authentication to keep data safe.
Maintaining a good human firewall involves establishing a security-centric organizational mindset. Employee training should be a priority within any organization looking to utilize a human firewall as a layer of protection from cyber security threats. However, human error isn't the only cause of security threats.
The Importance of Security in Business
While a human firewall can be an incredibly powerful step in minimizing a company's cyber security threat profile, it's not an all-encompassing solution. A human firewall is great for reducing human factors resulting in vulnerabilities, but there is the potential for many vulnerabilities that are not directly related to human errors.
Sometimes, a network isn't secure, a company can't scan for malware, or a team doesn't have the resources to detect malicious traffic. Factors like these can result in ransomware attacks and other unfortunate security breaches and can't be totally stopped by a human firewall. For these reasons, a regular firewall, data backups, and other technical security measures are essential to a smart cyber security strategy.