Human Error Threats and How to Prevent Them

Human Error Threats and How to Prevent Them

Human error in the workplace is not something to take lightly. A simple mistake made by an employee that has access to sensitive data could mean the demise of your business. Not all employers realize how dangerous human error can be. When it comes to cybersecurity, employee mistakes can lead to serious breaches in your information security and should be considered as threats.

Typical employee cyber security mistakes are associated with poor password handling, careless handling of data, use of insecure software, and general lack of knowledge about potential threats and best practices to prevent them.

Although there are many situations that can lead to mistakes, there are five main categories of human error security threats.

Human Error Threats

1.Weak Password Security

Passwords are the most basic security technique that can provide a very reliable protection if handled with care and do not share with anybody. However, when passwords are not handled with proper care and procedures, they can be easily cracked, guessed or otherwise obtained by malicious perpetrators, allowing them full access to the system.

  • Using simple passwords. A typical example of human factors in security is a simple password that is easy to remember. Sometimes, employees may even use default credentials. Such passwords are easy to guess or crack by a brute-force attack.
  • Sharing passwords. Sharing passwords among employees is a careless mistake that can easily give malicious insider access to the data they should not have access to. One look at the famous example of information security breach by Edward Snowden reinforces the fact that this is a bad idea for security. Another security mistake is to share the same password across different services and accounts. This means that if one of those services is compromised, all of them are also potentially compromised.

2. Careless handling of Data

There are some positions within companies in which employees routinely work with large amounts of data or handle sensitive data. Those that work in such a field can sometimes leak and compromise its data out of carelessness. It is quite amazing how one small mistake while working in such a position can result in a major data crisis and nearly ruin a company. Such carelessness may be the result of a simple mistake, or it may be caused by the fact that the employees do not realize the importance of said data. This is where employee education is vital. This education should continue past initial orientation. Some common mistakes include:

    • Sending data via email by mistake. Most white-collar employees send a lot of emails during work. It only takes a single mistake while typing recipient address in order to send sensitive data to the wrong person.
  • Accidentally deleting files. Employees may delete some files to clear space without realizing how important they were.

3. Inadequate Software Security

Employees tend to become careless when they are performing the same task daily. This turns their work into something that they aim to do efficiently rather than carefully. This causes them to neglect following proper security procedures. As a result, they often put convenience ahead of the security of software they use and data they are working with. However, such approach can often compromise cybersecurity of the whole organization. These employees tend to:

  • Neglecting updates. Employees often neglect updates because they take too long or pop up in inconvenient moments, leaving software vulnerable to an attack. Use of legacy software with known vulnerabilities is also a very widespread issue. Such software is often used not because it has exclusive necessary features, but rather as a force of habit.
  • Intentionally disable security features. Employees can disable security features that they think is hindering their work efficiency without realizing their importance. Such actions can easily compromise the security of the whole system.

4. Low Security Awareness

Hackers attempting to install malware or ransomware often do so through unprepared employees. Employees often have very low awareness about phishing and social engineering practices that can make them inadvertently help malicious agents get access to company data.

    • Using and downloading unauthorized software. Just because an unauthorized software certainly not malicious, it can still contain vulnerabilities that can serve as a gateway in your system for the malicious threatener. Make sure your employees only download authorized software.
    • Clicking on malicious email links. Emails containing malicious links are very dangerous and hard to filter. With the latest resurgence of ransomware delivered via malicious email links, it is vital to educate your employees on ways to be aware of and avoid malicious emails.
  • Plugging unknown or insecure devices. Make sure that your employees never plug in unfamiliar devices to any company devices. These can contain malicious code that will run automatically. Even if the device is the property of the employee, your company should forbid any outside devices. Even if the origin of the device is known, it can still harbor a virus, contracted from interacting with the outside network and therefore should not be allowed.

5. Ineffective Data Access Management

Controlling access to sensitive data is a basic part of any security. However, many organizations will grant all access to employees by default unless it is specifically restricted. This should not be done. Data access should be limited to only those who need access to complete their tasks. Even then, this should be closely monitored. Some examples of neglecting access management are:

    • Having too many privileges. Employees may end up having access to data or system configurations that they should not have. Such access can result in accidental data leaks.
  • Performing unauthorized system changes. Employees may perform unauthorized system changes in order to speed up their job or make it easier. However, they are most likely unaware that such changes can disturb regular business procedures and even bring down the system. You should try to block attempts from being performed.

Best practices for preventing human errors and security mistakes

Some of these mistakes happen more often than others. While they may not cause any immediate damage to your organization, these lapses in procedure following, such security mistakes, are disasters waiting to happen. They cannot go unmoderated. These can cause cyber security breaches and data leaks that will cause a lot of money to recover and may damage your business. These are simple fixes that can prevent disastrous mistakes.  

By using a complex holistic approach to insider threats and cybersecurity, you can reduce human error percentage and prevent security mistakes. These practices will help you to effectively protect your company from employee security mistakes:

    • Create an efficient and strict security policy
    • Educate your employees monthly
    • Apply the principle of least privilege so that only authorized employees have access to certain data.
  • Monitor your employees.


Human error threats can be prevented. By consciously applying yourself to learning how to prevent such errors and threats is the first step to making sure your security is tight. Through implementing strict policy and procedure, you are saving your company drastic time and money that could be spent on fixing mistakes. Don’t let it get to the point of a mistake happening in the first place. Take action for your data security with our help!