Human firewall definition
Human firewall refers to people who follow the best cybersecurity practices within an organization. They serve as the first line of defense against cyber attack targeting the human element. As social engineering attacks grow, a human firewall fosters an environment of mutual trust and support, turning cybersecurity into a collective and shared responsibility.
Sources of human firewall security threats
As enterprises upgrade their technical infrastructure, the attack surface can be shrunk. This makes it much more time-consuming for hackers, so they're looking for other routes into the company's network. It means that the employees may seem like a much more time-efficient method for infiltration.
For instance, the covid era was a golden age for threat actors as they were exploiting the fact that most people were working remotely. Here are the main ways hackers may use your staff as an attack vector.
Phishing is one of the most common social engineering attacks used to dupe an unsuspecting victim into clicking a malicious link or opening an attached file. Usually, this helps to spread the malware into the target's system, which the hacker then could compromise to gain a foothold in the business network.
Social networks and other publicly available data are frequently used to create a fake message that's later sent to the organization's employees. Such messages take the guise of genuine requests so as not to trigger any warning from the recipient.
An in-depth understanding of the most prominent phishing attacks and familiarity with their examples can tremendously help identify real-world examples later.
Malware is an umbrella term for computer software with malicious code. The main online malware threats when browsing include viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, and ransomware. Each malware type has its unique method of transmission with specific harm that it causes to the system.
Users get infected with malware when visiting compromised websites, opening suspicious email attachments, or plugging found USB thumbsticks into their work computers. Even your frequently visited websites can fall prey to an attack after being hacked. For this reason, it's important to educate employees about various risks lurking online and implement various filters so that the malware can't reach them.
Loss or theft of your employees' property, like a laptop or mobile phone, can significantly impact the whole organization's cybersecurity. While the initial attraction may be the device itself, it may also provide an open door into the company's network if unprotected. Additionally, this could be leaked publicly if personal devices contain sensitive data.
As employees are flexibly bringing their own devices to work or taking them to coffee shops and airports, there are more chances for thieves to use an opportunity to steal them. For this reason, educating employees about the dangers of open spaces is important. In addition, various technological security mechanisms like anti-theft protection wiping, fingerprint readers, and other tools should be enabled to increase the security status in case of device misplacement.
Why having a human firewall is essential
Employees are critical to your organization's IT security, not just your technical setup. In addition, trends like increased remote working highlighted the importance of a solid human firewall as employees became more reliant on offline communication. Hackers followed their targets trying to tap into the channels used for day-to-day business.
As cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, they target beyond the premises' physical premises. This makes your employees one of the key assets, especially when an organization falls prey to a complex cyber attack. Well-prepared company members could make a life or death difference between security breaches, expensive fines, and a close call that was successfully repelled.
Checklist: top essential 5 traits for effective human firewall
While large corporations spend millions of dollars on cybersecurity solutions, they often forget about their employees. This can backfire, as most cyberattacks are impossible to pull off unless someone on the inside makes a human error. In addition, it takes a certain kind of employee to be a successful human firewall. Here are the traits you should emphasize to strengthen your human firewall element.
A broad understanding of cybersecurity risks is key to helping your employees notice these threats when they're right under their noses. Familiarizing them with the most common social engineering attacks and what should be done creates a clear action plan for cases when the cybersecurity incident is underway. This builds a collective responsibility within your human firewall.
However, for this to work, employees should be regularly briefed on the latest cybersecurity trends, best practices, and online dangers. Increasing the cybersecurity awareness level helps to build a stronger internal security posture, building a more cyber-secure organization. However, for it to be successful, everyone should be on board.
Regarding cybersecurity, it's always better to be safe than sorry. This is where a healthy dose of suspicion is invaluable. During your employee's regular routines, there should be a somewhat fixed routine of what channels are used, how sensitive data is exchanged, etc. Even new joiners, after onboarding, can quickly get up to speed regarding what tools are used and how to get in touch with upper management.
Irregularities or something else that falls outside normal behavior patterns should always be met with caution. I.e., your colleague messages you on a completely different channel than usual, asking for something he should have access to — that's a red flag. Being cautious shouldn't paralyze your actions, but a healthy habit of stopping for a second to think whether something passes the eye test can help tremendously.
Remaining secure heavily rests on paying close and continuous attention to possible threats. This allows teams to anticipate potential attacks and ensure they're rendered unsuccessful. It's an essential skill for risk evaluation and significantly improves the chances of steering clear of potential attacks.
Keeping the finger on the pulse of what types of attacks are occurring outside the company helps to align the security measures. As companies frequently rely on similar setups, these insights help to hackproof the networks for the short or long term. Only one new vulnerability can be discovered until the game's rules are changed completely. By knowing the reasons for most recent data breaches, security should be adjusted, and employees should be on high alert for specific giveaway signs in case it could affect their organization.
Being part of a human firewall requires many soft skills like communication, but professionalism takes the cake. Cybersecurity requires a lot of patience, so remaining courteous and professional even in times of crisis is monumental.
No one wants to work with rude or unresponsive colleagues, and this lack of input can make cyber incident resolution harder than it could be. Fostering positive relationships can significantly boost the organization's morale, positively affecting company efficiency, productivity, and revenue. The same also positively translates to better cybersecurity resistance against various threats.
Trainings are important for all cybersecurity teams but critical when building a reliable human firewall. Practice makes perfect, and the more hands-on security training your employees get, the higher the chances they will apply their theoretical knowledge in practice.
As it stands now, employees are still the go-to target for hackers looking for an entry point. This means that your human firewall should be as well versed in the cyberattacks as possible and the best way to train them is to put them in simulated situations. Strengthening this vital link helps to steer clear of various baits thrown by hackers.
How to improve human firewall within your company
As cyberattacks constantly evolve, your human firewall should remain vigilant and continuously active. This means that your human firewall should be maintained to be prepared against anything that hackers could throw at it. Here's what could be improved to make your human firewall more capable of deflecting online threats.
A thorough understanding of the threats that a company is facing is essential and forms the foundation of your human firewall. Every one of your employees should understand what threats are facing the organization as well as know how to act under certain scenarios. Think of it as an extension of your fire drill training focused on cybersecurity.
Therefore, companies should have regular training sessions and stay up to date with the latest cyber threat developments. Various cybersecurity exercises can help your internal team be better equipped when interacting with various infiltration attempts.
2. Multi-factor authentication
MFA is a straightforward way to multiply security layers that a hacker should bypass to hack a user's account successfully. Securing user accounts with additional measures on top of passwords better secures an organization against password reuse cases. It's impossible to get into an account with only a password. Time-sensitive confirmation also needs to be provided to gain entry into an account.
It's even better if the second factor relies on biometric data or time-based one-time passwords, as these methods are much harder to spoof than SMS messages. This is a very simple adjustment that can instantly improve an organization's cybersecurity status.
3. Design a training program
Cybersecurity training program not only familiarizes employees with various types of lurking threats but also mentally prepares them for the time when they will encounter them. Skills like phishing email identification are a must in a modern workplace, and training programs can tremendously help build cybersecurity awareness culture.
Most training also touches on real-world situations like asking suspicious individuals for authorization, locking unattended computers, and accompanying visiting guests. This is something that absolutely everyone should be on board with to create a successful human firewall that stands as a firm line of defense.