The insecurity of people and security

Issue 1 2022 Training & Education

KnowBe4 did a survey of security habits around the world and unpacked how people behaved and the mistakes they made.The survey included more than 6000 people from across several countries, including South Africa, the US, Norway and the UK and dug deep into security behaviours around social engineering, password policies and more.

Anna Collard.

It revealed that around 53% of respondents believed they would be very comfortable reporting a violation or security issue with South Africa achieving an impressive 80%, compared with the 35% in Germany and 39% in the Netherlands. As Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, points out, this is a good time to replicate South Africa when it comes to encouraging people to report incidents and protect the business.

“Many people do not report a security incident because the process is too difficult, or they are too scared to report it,” she explains. “This is often made more complex by the fact that people do not know how to report an issue. These facts point to security systems that are complicated and confusing and to a cultural or societal issue that makes people feel uncomfortable or unsafe when reporting an issue. And both of these challenges have to be addressed.”

People are the last line of cybersecurity defence. They can prevent an issue from escalating and stop an attack from happening. They can also be the primary reason why an attack takes place. If they are falling for a phishing attempt or not reporting an incident, then they are potentially leaving the door wide open to attackers.

“The report found that South African IT security teams are seen as the most responsive and helpful,” says Collard. “Around 60% of South African respondents believed their teams were helpful compared to the global average of 43%, which is very likely why people were comfortable flagging an issue with them. The Norwegian and Dutch teams were rated the most unhelpful.”

This pattern in responsiveness on an emotional level is invaluable as organisations can use this insight to create a more engaging security culture. The best programmes are those that emphasise the importance of the employee’s role in ensuring that the business remains secure, while also establishing a positive and emphatic relationship between people and the IT Security team.

“Another area that the survey highlights as worth focusing on is around password security and multi-factor authentication (MFA),” says Collard. “Around 44% of respondents said they used different passwords for different sites, which shows that there is awareness around computer security. But only just over 23% of respondents said they used MFA, which is a concern. South Africa was the lowest at 13% and Germany at 14%, but all end users need to focus on increasing MFA adoption to better beat the cybersecurity odds.”

Overall, the survey underscored how important training has become for companies looking to increase their security posture and behaviours. People need to be given regular insight into how their actions change the face of security and how they can play a positive role in shaping the culture of security within the business. These steps will help build a solid foundation of security within the business by fundamentally shifting how people behave online and in the business.

“Already, South African companies lead the way when it comes to proactive response times with accessible IT teams, now all that is left is to polish up our general security awareness,” concludes Collard.

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