Much is said about staff being a company’s greatest resource…and this is true, great employees drive a business and make it successful. But employees are only human, and as such, they act as agents of both positive and negative change: in 2021, human error continues to cause most data breaches. However, employees also hold the key to positive change in the cyber security realm. Our staff are individuals, but collectively they can help to form a human firewall that stops cyber threats dead. Here is how…
What is a human firewall?
A traditional firewall acts as a virtual border to the outside world, monitoring and filtering incoming and outgoing traffic to manage cyber threats and prevent cyber attacks. The firewall, as a security concept, goes back to the 1980s, but the use of these network security solutions continues to the present day. The concept of a proactive system that controls attacks against an organisation is a successful one, but one that is being challenged by human-centred attacks. This ethos of a collective way to proactively fight cyber attacks does not just apply to a virtual solution it is also applicable to a human shield, in other words, a human firewall.
A human firewall is the real-world equivalent of a traditional network firewall. To create this human firewall, human beings, or in other words the staff of an organisation, are given the tools to recognise and thwart cyber threats. The human firewall is built upon the back of ongoing Security Awareness Training giving everyone the tools to stop hackers.
The 5 principles behind a human firewall
The human firewall is part of a wider ‘culture of security’, so-called as it imbues a security mindset into the entire workforce, placing security thinking centre stage in an organisation. This is important as it makes taking security precautions and being security-aware, second nature. A human firewall helps to turn security into a cultural norm. To build your human firewall, you should follow these five principles:
Build your firewall, human brick by human brick
The more people that populate your human firewall, the more chances a cyber attack will be prevented. Everyone loves to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves – introduce your employees to the notion of the human firewall as part of a wider Security Awareness Training program. Security Awareness Training delivers the knowledge used to spot a cyber attack, such as a phishing email campaign. By being able to recognise a cyber threat or attack in the making, your staff can stop it before it becomes a successful breach. The more staff that you put through Security Awareness Training, the stronger your human firewall becomes.
Build your firewall using interactive fun
Security Awareness Training offers practical ways to prevent cyber attacks. However, it should be delivered in a way that is engaging, informative, and interactive. Don’t overwhelm your employees with too many dry security idioms. Instead, build fun sessions that are tailored to your organisation’s needs. This way, your human firewall will grow steadily, and the knowledge delivered by a security awareness program will be more likely to stick.
Give your human firewall the tools to prevent data breaches
Data breaches are not only a security issue, but they are also a compliance and privacy concern. A human firewall needs the right processes and tools in place to help fight data breaches. Security policies must be augmented with clear guidance on what to do in the event of a phishing email, accidental data exposure, shared passwords, and so on.
Security Awareness Training can help to explain the tricks of the cybercriminal trade, but other tools such as incident reporting solutions should be made available. An incident reporting tool should be designed to be easy for staff to enter potential security concerns. It must also be able to automatically triage a security incident and send alerts and reports to the right person to escalate an issue. In this way, an incident reporting tool acts to augment your human firewall.
Continue to build and fix your human firewall
The security landscape changes. Cybercriminals create new tactics to trick employees into clicking phishing links or navigating to malicious websites, and so on. Your human firewall needs to be given regular Security Awareness Training to ensure that staff are up to date with developments in the world of scams, security hygiene, and phishing. This fixes gaps in your human firewall that could open over time.
Reward your human firewall
The employees that make up the human firewall should feel rewarded for doing a good job and making their workplace a safer environment. Rewards can be part of the Security Awareness Training program or as an end-of-training event.
In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as a human firewall; however, over the last 12-months, 84% of companies have experienced phishing and ransomware attacks. Cyber security is affecting every sector across the world and companies must turn to their staff to augment traditional security solutions. In the past, the traditional firewall could stop hackers from the outside from coming in. Now, these hackers manipulate our employees to circumvent traditional firewalls. The way to fight back is to arm our employees with knowledge and training and to work with them to build a resilient and knowledgeable human firewall.