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Threat from inside: The perils of human error

What’s the real threat to your business? Ransomware or phishing scams?

Actually, the problem is worse: threats coming from within your enterprise network. Unfortunately, human error and unsafe cyber practices are all too common in the modern, digitally-driven industry. Investing in IT resources is great and all, but without good “human” foundations, it can fall apart, and fast.

So, what do we mean by human error? In cybersecurity, it is an umbrella phrase covering all aspects of risk-based behavior within an IT environment. And what is “risk-based” behavior? Essentially any practice or activity which presents a threat to a network, accidental or otherwise. For the most part, these risk behaviors are indirect, meaning they’re not intentional. Though, in rare cases, there are malicious insider threats.

But first, let’s talk about the former.

Problems from within

What kind of risks? Well, here’s one: password usage. It varies from network to network, but simple, unsafe passwords are incredibly common. And, utilizing those same passphrases across devices and apps is also common! Simple mishaps like this build up a vast web of increasing risks weakening the strength of a company, despite security resources in place to defend against them.

That’s a characteristic of carelessness, caused by several factors, like worker fatigue, weak administrator governance, unclear strategies, and burnout.

Malicious intent is also a problem, though we’ll address that shortly.

So, what leads to “human error” within an enterprise framework?

There isn’t an exact answer, because all businesses and organizations are different. However, there are traceable patterns throughout networks, so we can still identify core reasons for error and internal problems.

Social Engineering and Phishing Schema

Yes, it’s 2022 (or whichever current year you’re reading this in) and phishing still poses a serious risk to internal IT affairs. Malicious gangs launch complex campaigns and take advantage of official imagery, and they’ve gotten quite good at it. So, if a staff member on any tier of the business happens to hand over a login or access to a company network, digital hell breaks loose.

Staff has to be trained and literate on the nature of social engineering schemes. Enabling zero-trust policies also helps reduce risks caused by phishing.

Non-Holistic/Approved Software

Part of maintaining a complete IT picture is approving the software and apps involved in the general work process. But when those unknown apps are used in conjunction with workflows, that’s “dark IT” or “shadow IT.”

It’s a habitual thing and not a behavior staff members consider. They know and understand the software they’re using, so it’s not a risk, right? But software that flies under the radar is just another unknown variable, one which potentially poses danger to the threads of internal IT processes.

However, do consider why staff would be using “unapproved apps.” It’s because they don’t have the correct resources to perform tasks (or don’t feel they do). Providing them with the correct resources address the error.

Physical Loss or Theft of Hardware/Devices

Do you offer a BYOD policy? For those operating with hybrid or traditional work environments, it’s possible to see security threats as a direct consequence of theft/loss. A company-provided laptop or smart device, for example, contains important business data. Once lost, said data is at risk.

In other cases, there’s a chance the device is stolen. It’s not as common, but it can happen. You can imagine the problems arising as a result of a stolen device: all the same ones from a lost device, but this time, caused by malicious intent.

“Travelling” Data Outside the Enterprise

Data leaves the business side in many ways, and it’s not just over the internet. Data sharing – or when information “travels” – presents a real challenge to enterprises seeking to guard their information. Data that moves with the staff can range from simply knowing the types of information they work with, to carrying devices containing business logins and files.

More so, this is dangerous if the person(s) in question have malicious intent regarding the data, such as to sell it off to competitors or dark web forums.

Keeping this under control means knowing where and how your information travels, including the devices it is stored on.


Internal threats caused by human error and malign intent are unfortunate realities IT system managers must confront. Luckily, many common errors are addressable and a matter of establish good habits and practices.

If you’d like assistance with security foundations and IT help, you can always reach out to Bytagig.

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