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What HR can do to prevent data breaches and cyber threats

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When it comes to data breaches and security incidents, no organisation is immune.

However, the companies with a better relationship between IT and cloud service providers and HR can help to stop cybercrime.

According to a new report by Verizon, 92% of all security incidents over a 10-year period can be traced back to nine basic patterns, which vary from industry to industry. This finding – a highlight of the 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) – can help people like human resources managers better understand the types of threats and how various personnel within the organisation can help to prevent cyber attacks.

“After analysing 10 years of data, we realise most organisations cannot keep up with cybercrime – and the bad guys are winning,” said Wade Baker, principal author of the Data Breach Investigations Report series.

“But by applying big data analytics to security risk management, we can begin to bend the curve and combat cybercrime more effectively and strategically.

The DBIR identified the nine threat patterns as:

1. Miscellaneous errors such as sending an email to the wrong person
2. Crimeware (various malware aimed at gaining control of systems)
3. Insider/privilege misuse
4. Physical theft/loss
5. Web app attacks
6. Denial of service attacks
7. Cyberespionage
8. Point-of-sale intrusions
9. Payment card skimmers.

This year’s report found that on average, just three threat patterns cover 72 percent of the security incidents in any industry.

For example, in the financial services sector, 75% of incidents come from Web application attacks, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and card skimming, while 54% of all manufacturing attacks are attributed to cyberespionage and DDoS.

In the retail sector, the majority attacks are tied to DDoS (33%) followed by point-of-sale intrusions (31%).

But for HR professionals, the most interesting (and scary) type of threat is insider privilege and misuse, which the report found affected industries like real estate, the public sector and administrative businesses.

“Wherever a business trusts people, you’ll find this risk,” the report stated.

What can you do to help prevent cyber threats and employee misuse?

The report suggests numerous ways business leaders, IT heads and HR can help.

Know your data: The first step in protecting your data is in knowing where it is, and who has access to it.

Review user accounts: Having identified who has access to sensitive data, implement a process for revoking access when employees leave or change role.

Watch the exits: Set up controls to watch for data transfer out of the organisation.

Publish anonymised results of audits: Seeing that policies are being enforced and policed can be a powerful deterrent.

Strengthen controls on publishing: Decrease the frequency of publishing errors by tightening up controls around posting documents to websites. Regularly scan the web for private data.

Teach staff about asset disposal: They must understand that documents and computers can’t just be put in the bin.

Encrypt devices: While encryption won’t affect the chances of an asset going missing, it will protect the data it stores.

Back it up: Regular backups can prevent the loss of valuable data, reduce downtime, and help with forensics should you be breached.

Lock it down: Secure IT equipment to immovable fixtures, and store sensitive assets — including paper documents — in a separate, secure area.

“Organisations need to realize no one is immune from a data breach,” said Baker. “Compounding this issue is the fact that it is taking longer to identify compromises within an organisation – often weeks or months – while penetrating an organisation can take minutes or hours.

Image: Shutterstock

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