Why Do Employees Violate Cybersecurity Policies?

In 2021 alone, more than 6 trillion dollars were recorded in global losses caused by virtual attacks against companies and diverse groups. Defining consistent cybersecurity policies should not be overlooked to make companies more secure.

But these security policies are often ignored by employees themselves. Knowing the reasons that lead to these risky behaviors and how to identify and prevent these actions are fundamental for any enterprise that wants to maintain competitiveness, security, and compliance with data protection regulations.

The fundamental aspect of the human factor

Although investments in technology and security systems are fundamental to cybersecurity policies, the human factor is still the most important and decisive element.

Most threats against companies exploit some kind of human error. So employee behaviors, at all levels, define a lot of how safe a company is in protecting systems, equipment, and data.

The biggest risk behaviors consist, among other things, of:

  • Ignoring security policies and internal protocols: the first risk factor is the inadequacy in relation to the security policies defined by the company, when employees do not follow the defined processes and, thus, put the systems at risk;
  • Clicking on suspicious links and downloading files without proper confirmation: Clicking on links and attachments sent by e-mail, SMS messages, messages in communication applications, or other methods without proper authorization and confirmation are the gateway to malware attacks. phishing and ransomware;
  • Using personal devices for work activities: personal devices (such as smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and others) are, in general, more susceptible to attacks and digital threats and, if misused, end up creating vulnerabilities in the business environment;
  • Sharing personal passwords and professional credentials: Sharing personal access data with others (including other employees) is one of the most common human failures;
  • Not taking care of company equipment: employees who use company equipment to work outdoors often neglect them, creating opportunities for theft, misplacement, or loss of devices that contain sensitive data.

The risks of the home office environment

During the pandemic, the increase in people working from home was significant. Despite representing convenience for many workers and lower costs for companies, this approach tends to have greater exposure and risks.

Corporate environments have better defined and delimited structures for professional activities, which is not so well structured in home office regimes.

Employees are more vulnerable to phishing attacks, malware, ransomware, spyware, and other digital attacks used to steal data and harm people and businesses.

To reduce these risks, companies must define security policies and protocols for these environments, taking into account the specifics of this work model.

Main factors of employee carelessness

According to a survey published by the Harvard Business Review, 67% of respondents said they could not properly follow cybersecurity policies set by companies.

And 85% stated that the main causes for non-compliance with safety regulations were the need to complete their own work tasks and help colleagues with their activities. Only 3% said they acted intentionally to cause harm to companies.

Stress is the predominant factor among the main causes of human error behaviors in digital security. Most report that stress and conflict between personal and professional life cause the inability to follow security policies properly.

The lack of adequate training and systems to monitor and assist in employee activities also increases the risk of human error.

Accountability and digital security practices

Although the number of cyber threats is continuously and rapidly increasing, there are behaviors that help to improve security in the corporate environment and, outside it, working from home (or anywhere else).

Keeping professional antivirus and an always-on firewall is also worth it, as is keeping backups of files and data on secure cloud services, which lessens the risk and damage of ransomware attacks.

Professional VPN services are also highly recommended, as they secure the connection through strong encryption, increasing data security and privacy for online activities. It’s worth checking out VPNs and how they can protect systems, data, and connections. Also, you can always try a VPN with free trial before purchasing it, making sure you’ve picked the best provider.

People are the most fundamental element of any company, which also applies to digital security. Valued, well-trained teams with adequate working conditions reproduce less risky behaviors that open gaps for attacks and internal and external threats.

Huynh Nguyen

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