IMPORTANT Website terms of use and cookie statement

Why human error is still your top cybersecurity risk

As a cybersecurity provider and Partner of RIBA, Mitigo deal with many cyber incidents each year and most of them have one key element in common – human error. Below they provide four approaches to control the "human factor", most of which is about risk management and making yourself aware of the cyber threats facing your business, and the likely consequences of successful cyberattacks.

By Marina Andrejchenko via Shutterstock

We deal with countless cyber incidents every year and most of them have one thing in common - human error. A common example we see is staff falling for a phishing campaign and giving away secure login credentials that allow the criminals to gain access to your business. System administrators can also be the root cause - we see examples of bad configuration and disabled security controls, which leave the business wide open to attack.

Remote working can increase risk. Staff tend to behave differently in a more relaxed, home-based environment and may let their guard down. Cyber criminals know this, and attack using mass phishing emails, trick text messages and impersonation phone calls. They gather information and exploit vulnerabilities. Defending against this requires a far more sophisticated approach than technology alone.

You need a layered approach to control the “human factor”

The starting point is to agree on what is allowed and what is not allowed. Are your staff aware of your policies and processes? That is not to say that everything should be banned, far from it, but understanding the risks attached to your policies allows you to put in place appropriate mitigations. A common example is staff using company computers to login to personal accounts such as Google. Another is allowing the use of personal mobile phones to access work emails. If uncontrolled, these two things can cause significant issues. Does this sound like your business? If so, we recommend you do something about it.

Preventative controls
Only when you understand what your policies are, can you begin to consider how you configure the technology that you already have in place. Your software and systems will have controls that can dramatically reduce the risk if you get an expert to properly configure them. From web browser settings, through antivirus configuration, to laptop configuration, getting these working together coherently, reduces your reliance on staff.

People competence
It is not enough just to tell people to be careful and to look out for “dodgy emails”. Training, testing, simulation, and communication are the tools required to improve staff competence against these threats. Typically, we find 20%-25% of staff will fall for a simulated attack but this can be addressed by implementing a proper cyber awareness programme. Effective training and improved communications will start to change culture.

This final layer is mainly about some proportionate measures to make sure you stay in control and to help you sleep at night. How often do you check that staff are complying with your policies? Do you have any kind of independent assurance that the configuration and controls that you have set-up actually provide protection, continue to work, and are not becoming ineffective over time?

At its core, this is all about risk management. You need to make yourself aware of the cyber threats facing your business and the likely consequences of successful cyberattacks. The layers above should be used to mitigate and control the risks to reduce them to an acceptable level.

Thank you to Mitigo for providing this valuable information to mitigate the risks of a cyber-attack due to human error. View the full service offer on our technical security page. For more information contact Mitigo on 0161 88 33 507 or email

keyboard_arrow_up To top