We’re number one! (Oh, that’s not a good thing?)

Yes, sometimes it’s better not to be recognized.  Especially if it’s in the Verizon 2020  Data Breach Investigations Report which shows new and emerging trends of the cyber threat landscape.  Anyone who is anyone in cyber wants to get their hands on it as soon as it’s published (and we are no exception).   As has been for many years, one of the key reasons behind data breaches involves what we do (or don’t do).  In fact, this year’s report shows that 3 out of the top 5 threat actions that lead to a breach involve human’s either making mistakes or being tricked. Below is a closer look at those 3 threat actions, and the human factors they rely on.

1. Phishing

In this year’s report, phishing attacks lead the cyber threat pack for successful breaches. It it also the most common form of social engineering used today, making up 80% of all cases. A phish attacker doesn’t need to rely on a lot of complicated technical know-how to steal information from their victims. Instead, phishing is a cyber threat that relies exclusively on manipulating people’s emotions and critical thinking skills to trick them into believing the email they are looking at is legitimate.

2. Misdelivery

One surprising aspect of the report is the rise of misdelivery as a cause of data breaches. This is a different kind of human factored cyber threat: the pure and simple error.  And there is nothing very complicated about it: someone within the organization will accidentally send sensitive documents or emails to the wrong person. While this may seem like a small mistake, the impact can be great, especially for industries handling highly sensitive information, such as healthcare and financial services.

3. Misconfiguration

Misconfigurations as a cause of data breaches is also on the rise, up nearly 5% from the previous year. Misconfigurations cover everything security personnel not setting up cloud storage properly, undefined access restrictions, or even something as simple as a disabled firewall. While this form of cyber threat involves technological tools, the issues is first and foremost with the errors made by those within an organization. Simply put, if a device, network, or database is not properly configured, the chances of a data breach sky rocket.

So What’s to Stop Us?

By and large we all understand the dangers cyber threats pose to our organizations, and the amount of tools available to defend against these threats are ever-increasing  And yet, while there is now more technology to stop the intruders, at the end of the day it still comes down to the decisions we make and the behaviors we have (and which are often used against us).

We know a few things:  compliance “check the box” training doesn’t work (but you knew that already); “gotcha” training once you accidentally click on a simulated phish doesn’t work because punitive reinforcement rarely creates sustained behavior change; the IT department being the only group talking about security doesn’t work because that’s what they always talk about (if not blockchain).

Ugh.  So what might work?  If you want to have sustained cybersecurity behavior change, three things + one need to occur:  1) you need to be clear regarding the behaviors you want to see; 2) you need to make it easy for people to do; 3) you need people to feel successful doing it.  And the “+ one” is that leadership needs to be doing and talking the same thing.  In other words, the behaviors need to become part of the organizational culture and value structure.

If we design the behaviors we want and put them into practice, we can stop being number one.  At least as far as Verizon is concerned.

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