What Do HR and Psychology Have to Do With Cyber Threats?

Where is the Real Threat?

In the internet world festooned with apps we know it’s important to use strong passwords to secure our own email, social media accounts, and electronic devices. On the corporate side, another important consideration is the role that humans play in cyber threats. People with access to big data, personal information, intellectual property (IP), and critical infrastructure (e.g., power supplies, water treatment, hospitals, railways) can sometimes be the weak link in the chain.

HR as Part of Risk Management

Person and Binary Computer CodesFor a while, I’ve been thinking about cyber crimes and cybersecurity and how to adapt what I learned and applied when I worked in a very secure (Top Secret) environment. In that workplace, we were extremely careful about how people were hired. Also important was how they were treated after being hired. I call my adaptation of those processes and policies “HR as Part of Risk Management.” I’ll admit that this may not be a stylish title but it does address something that most approaches to risk management are missing.

Employees: Often the Weakest Link 

Ominous Dark Buildings
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Traditionally, risk management includes “human factors” but to date, relatively little attention has been paid to this source of risk. Normally, 90% of our collective efforts have focused on technical or IT-related interventions to protect us from cyber threats. Yes, these are important. However, to focus on them and not address the human element, psychology or employees’ behaviour is like locking the front door but leaving the back door open. The fact is that sometimes security breaches reported as cyber attacks are caused by actions that take place inside the organization. As Dermot Williams, the CEO of  IT security firm Threatscape says, “when it comes to organizations, often the employees who are the weakest link.”

Although I have a lot more to say on this topic, for now, I’ll share an article that I wrote called Is Cyber Security Alone Ever Enough?, published in FrontLine Security in October 2016. Take a few minutes and read.







If you’d like to see my more recent articles/podcasts on this topic, here are some updates:

Corporate Security Hinges on its People

Sources Of Insider Threats: They’re Not Always What You Think …

The Insider Threat Podcast


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