The hard truth about protecting business data and intellectual property assets is that simply putting more resources and headcounts into cybersecurity is not enough. As competent as IT security specialists might be, they cannot do the job alone. Threats originate at every corner of organizations, and it’s virtually impossible to centrally anticipate and fight all of them.

What’s possible to do for better data protection, however, is to decentralize cybersecurity and put some level of responsibility in the hands of individual employees and managers. This post looks at how business professionals can do that in practice.

From individual errors to massive data breaches

Let’s take a quick look at how large-scale data breaches build up. More often than not, big system failures and hacking attacks featured in the news start with small individual errors happening in one or more departments due to, among other reasons, negligence, stress, and multitasking.

Hence staff members might set weak passwords that hackers can easily crack or may inadvertently attach the wrong file due to seemingly confusing names. What’s more, employees may get deceived by spoofed email addresses and impersonators pretending to be the CEO and requesting an urgent bank transfer or access to confidential information.

Such examples can quickly escalate into financial harm, broken customer trust, reputational damage, and even, very uncomfortable situations for individuals whose private data is at risk.

Best practices to prevent human errors

Since everyone is prone to human error, it’s reasonable to approach cybersecurity with individuals in mind, notably by:

Making cybersecurity part of the organizational culture

First thing first, employees need to know that their organizations take cybersecurity seriously. Otherwise, why would they care? Probably the most effective way to convey the message is to start with organizational culture. Companies can add cybersecurity and data protection to their key values and define exemplary behaviors and rewards for doing the right things — e.g., alerting IT security specialists immediately when a threat is detected.

Empowering employees with awareness and training

The chances are that staff members, especially new hires, cannot prevent threats alone. They need a little help knowing what they’re up against. Cybersecurity awareness initiatives such as creating a simple newsletter about recent attacks as well as offering security training modules and conducting cyber attack simulations could help here. With some preparation, employees become much more capable of playing their part.

Using error prevention software

A lot of IT security solutions look at how to block malware, viruses, and other external threats. But most human errors happen because of actions that were taken by individuals internally. As such, these behaviors often fall under the radar and require other techniques to spot the situations conducive to data breaches — for instance, by notifying users when it’s the first time they interact with a recipient or if files contain confidential information that likely should not be shared externally.

All in all, while IT security specialists play a fundamental role in fighting cybercriminals, everyone should be involved as part of a collaborative effort to protect data and IP assets.