From Internal Threats to Accidental Clicks, Human Factors in Cybersecurity

By Juhi Fadia, Correspondent  |  October 07, 2022

Humans are often considered the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. While there is no shortage of reports of major damage – intentional or unintentional – attributed fully to human behavior, the MSP community continues to lean into technical solutions. They often overlooking the increasingly sophisticated attacks that prey on human beings, not machines.

In the world of cybersecurity, there will always be an overlap of data, networks, applications, devices, physical infrastructure, and automated systems. But, in every case – across all those domains – humans are part of the equation. While AI and machine learning may make our digital lives and businesses more secure, cybercriminals are invoking those exact things as part of their offensive attacks, in many cases outspending the security solution providers working to defend their customers.

Internal data leaks stem from employees, and while it is hard to understand why any employee would sabotage their own company, there are more accidental breaches than brute force attacks inside enterprises.

“At the highest level, the main objective for cyber criminals is to attain the credentials of an IT administrator, an employee, and even CEOs and other executives, so they can invade the network with access to all the assets – data, private information, operating systems, financial and accounting platforms, physical security systems and more,” said Scott Chasin, CTO at Pax8.

Pax8 is a cloud marketplace for MSPs with a growing range of cybersecurity solutions and recent investments in training and education, including an upcoming Boot Camp co-sponsored by Microsoft (News - Alert).

“The state of security in 2022 is highly adrenalized,” wrote the Enterprise Strategy Group earlier this year in a report commissioned by Splunk. “Two years into the deadly and disruptive global pandemic, not only are we continuing to see more attacks, but we’re also seeing more actual breaches.”

After engaging with over 1,200 security leaders, the researchers found that 49 percent of organizations suffered a data breach over the past two years, up from 39 percent a year earlier. While certain attack vectors dominated headlines in the last year or two, criminals are still finding success with traditional approaches.

  • 51 percent report business email compromise, up from 42 percent a year ago.
  • 39 percent of organizations report insider attacks, up from 27 percent a year ago.
  • 79 percent say they’ve encountered ransomware attacks, and 35 percent admit one or more of those attacks led them to lose access to data and systems.

Additionally, 40 percent of companies report a regulatory violation (up from 28 percent a year ago), and MSPs are feeling the urgency to protect customers in multiple industries.

“We’re responding to escalating needs from our MSP partners, especially in human mistakes where one quick click on a nefarious link can set off disastrous consequences, including pivot attacks once the intruder enters the network, cloud and application hijacking, and of course, ransomware attacks,” Chasin said. “In addition to directing MSPs to the best security solutions for their specific needs, we also provide coaching in the areas of employee access levels, password management, and protection against web-borne threats, including attacks on the browser, which have grown exponentially as more people work from home, and of course training and awareness.”

When it comes to human factors, favorite attacks include those on passwords. Since passwords are widely used to protect data on the web, they are a very profitable area of attack for criminals.

“The dark side characters are using very sophisticated social engineering to get people to open an email, click on a link, tap on a text message, and more by making the interface look familiar and official,” Chasin said. “It takes only seconds and can be prevented by solutions we make available on our marketplace.”

Hackers use phishing attacks to obtain credentials or use spear phishing, the practice of targeting a specific person or company to obtain valuable information.

“While we will never be able to stop all attacks, there is so much more we can do today, beyond training and awareness – which is important – by adopting intelligent and affordable software tools, including solutions that can be installed in browsers on any device to immediately warn users of dangers ahead,” Chasin explained. “We look forward to sharing the latest with hundreds of our MSP partners at our first Security Boot Camp later this month.”

Pax8’s Security Bootcamp is in Denver, October 18-19, in partnership with Microsoft and the Azure cloud team. Topics include Components of Modern Workplace and Modern Security, Threats Facing the Modern Workplace, Hardening Azure Identity, Securing Windows Endpoints, Managing BYOD Scenario, Protecting from External Threats with Defender for Office 365, Leveraging Cybersecurity Policies, and Safeguarding Intellectual Property and PII.

Juhi Fadia is an engineer, analyst, researcher and writer covering advanced and emerging technologies.

Edited by Erik Linask
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