Organizations and businesses across the globe employ robust cybersecurity solutions and deploy firewalls to protect their network and reputation, considering the increasing risks of cyberattacks.
Cybercrime is expected to skyrocket exponentially over the coming years—expected to reach a market volume of $85.49 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 9.63%.
But the question is, are just deploying security measures and using cutting-edge AI-powered cybersecurity applications enough to ensure the ultimate security against evolving cybercriminal attacks?
The answer is no. An enterprise’s security isn’t just limited to the responsibility of its IT and security team—but also its workforce and employees.
An IBM report suggests that human error contributes to 95% of all cyberattacks. This indicates the grave importance of increasing cybersecurity awareness among each organization’s department and team—giving rise to the concept of a human firewall.
This article sheds light on what a human firewall is, its importance in today’s cybersecurity landscape, ways to implement it, and overcoming its challenges to take control of your organization’s security in your hands.
What Is a Human Firewall?
A human firewall is a group of well-trained people in an organization who serves as a first line of defense to detect and combat cybersecurity threats and protect the organization.
As discussed earlier, since the leading cause for most cyberattack successes is human error and negligence, an efficient human firewall is more necessary than ever. A human firewall serves as a foundation for your organization’s cybersecurity architecture.
Most cyberattacks like data breaches, phishing, and other social engineering attacks succeed because of the employees’ lack of awareness, knowledge, and expertise to detect or recognize them in the first place.
Hence, a human firewall adds a human layer of protection to your company’s network and is critical in preventing major cyberattacks and the cost of breaches.
It consists of training employees to effectively handle the wide company data and spreading cybersecurity education to decrease the chances of security risks to a company significantly.
Let’s learn more about the significance of the role of a human firewall in today’s cybersecurity scenario.
Role of a Human Firewall In Cybersecurity
While a regular firewall blocks malicious traffic from entering your organization’s network, a human firewall focuses on securing the network by training and educating employees and empowering cybersecurity awareness.
The global cybercrime cost is estimated to reach $13.83 trillion by 2028 from a $5.7 trillion forecast value in 2023.
Implementing a human firewall can potentially avoid unnecessary cybersecurity expenses for your organization by making employees aware of the huge losses and dangers caused due to phishing and other cybersecurity threats.
Besides awareness and education, the role of human firewall in cybersecurity also involves:
✅ Identifying and reporting security threats
✅ Protecting sensitive company information
✅ Adherence to security policies
✅ Ensuring mobile, email, and phishing security
✅ Ensuring remote workforce security
✅ Avoiding social engineering attacks
✅ Maintaining device and software security
Thus, organizations can prevent major data breaches and save revenue with the right security tools, training assets, and promoting individual security responsibility.
Components of a Human Firewall
A human firewall should encompass reliable strategies and components to ensure equal engagement and contribution from all the members of a human firewall and strengthen the organization’s cybersecurity strategy.
While the components of a human firewall may vary from one organization to another, here are the generic components of an efficient human firewall:
#1. Cybersecurity Training and Awareness
One of the key and foremost components of an efficient human firewall is making employees aware and caring about cybersecurity.
Before even handing them down with loads of cybersecurity information, your training must start with the why behind the initiative and make them understand how security measures from their end can significantly impact the overall organization’s security framework.
Hence, educating employees about attacks in the form of phishing, smishing, or spear phishing, along with their source, identification techniques, and how they can be prevented, is essential to reduce the impact of security threats on your company’s network.
You can either conduct the training in person or via online video meetings at spaced intervals to ensure long-term training retention. At the same time, empowering employees to apply and practice the training concepts is crucial instead of passively retrieving the information—only to forget later.
#2. Strong Password Practices
Around 80% of hacking-related data breaches are linked to passwords, either in the form of brute force attacks or lost and stolen passwords.
Passwords are the first security defense line against unauthenticated and unauthorized access to an organization’s network. Hence, enforcing strong password policies is imperative to mitigate password-related risks.
Here are some tips or password strategies you must implement when establishing a human firewall within your organization:
Make employees use strong and complex passwords with a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lowercase letters—making them difficult to guess.
Ensure the passwords are modified or changed regularly within 60 to 90 days to avoid prolonged unauthorized access risks.
Prevent using old or repetitive passwords for multiple accounts. 92% of employees are aware that using the same passwords or variations is risky, yet 65% use the same passwords. Make your employees aware of the risks associated with using the same passwords so they fall under the rest, 35% of the safe crowd.
Implement an account lockout system that locks an account after multiple login attempts—preventing risks of brute-force attacks.
Regularly reviewing, changing, and updating passwords is essential to prevent risks of password breaches and secure your organization’s data and sensitive information.
#3. Physical Security Measures
Besides taking care of employee training and implementing strong password policies, the human firewall also involves taking care of other necessary physical security measures.
These measures include ensuring perimeter security, biometric authentication, access controls, security cameras, and equipment and gadget protection like laptops and computers. At the same time, it’s also crucial for employees to keep their devices and work desks clean and not have passwords written on sticky notes or saved in a file on the desktop.
How to Setup a Human Firewall?
Just like a firewall, a human firewall protects your organization’s data from a manual in-person perspective—ensuring there aren’t any data leaks within the organization’s security infrastructure.
A successful human firewall consists of a team of dedicated individuals who can recognize an attack on the web or social media and stop it just in time.
Here are a few critical ways to set up and build a successful human firewall in your company.
#1. Get Your Employees Involved in Cybersecurity
The first and foremost step in setting up a human firewall is building a cybersecurity culture from day 1 and getting your employees involved in the cybersecurity systems.
This step ensures that cybersecurity responsibilities aren’t just restricted to one or two departments but the entire organization. Your organization’s new employee recruitment and onboarding process should include cybersecurity training and awareness.
At the same time, considering cybersecurity skills and knowledge as a key requirement when recruiting new employees is also beneficial. It helps enforce the need among job seekers to make themselves aware of the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies.
You must also provide educational resources to your employees and tweak the cybersecurity training curriculum w.r.t different departments, ages, and interests—appealing to individuals from all sectors and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
#2. Educate and Train Them Effectively
Recruiting the right employees and engaging them with just one training session isn’t it all.
Cybersecurity attacks evolve and become increasingly sophisticated. Hence, the training must be a consistent and ongoing process—keeping employees aware of the latest cybersecurity techniques and how to overcome them.
You must conduct engaging and scenario-based cybersecurity training in a digestible form—without overwhelming employees with a lot of information. The employees should feel concerned and vulnerable yet encouraged and empowered at the same time—to detect and fight any cyberattacks.
You can build an agile, alert, responsive team empowered to act on shared knowledge with the right training.
#3. Test Your Employees
While consistent training programs are essential, assessing the impact of those training on your employees is critical to check their progress, knowledge, and effectiveness in handling cybersecurity attacks.
You can start by reviewing employee engagement and checking click rates to check how many employees engage with stimulations.
Besides, you can also conduct regular phishing tests to check employees’ awareness of the phishing attack dangers and if they can successfully combat the attacks and secure the organization.
#4. Keep Your Employees Informed
Besides regular training, keeping your employees aware of the latest cybersecurity threats, their risks and dangers, and strategies to avoid them is crucial.
You must inform employees of the dangers of clicking on unknown links and opening suspicious files from unknown sources.
In addition, you can also maintain a dedicated Slack channel or a security reporting system to encourage employees to call out the security threats and attack attempts they encounter.
#5. Build an Effective Human Firewall Plan
Building a robust human firewall plan and implementing strong cybersecurity policies is one of the most crucial steps in setting up a human firewall.
It’s crucial to set up clear and concise policies that include email security, password policies, social media usage, and device and software use policies to create higher security. Making employees aware of these security policies makes it easier to hold them accountable for their implementation.
How to Measure The Effectiveness of a Human Firewall?
A successful human firewall strategy doesn’t end with its implementation and setup. Measuring its effectiveness is crucial as it helps determine employee awareness and your company’s security culture progress.
Here are a few metrics that can help you measure the impact and efficiency of your human firewall strategy.
Click rates and phishing simulations: While measuring click rates helps understand the employee percentage who clicks on phishing emails and is susceptible to phishing attacks, phishing simulations assess employees’ ability to detect and report phishing emails.
Training completion rates: It tracks the number and percentage of employees who completed the cybersecurity awareness training programs—allowing you to determine their interest, improvements via feedback, and time required to complete the training.
Incident reporting rates: It measures the percentage of incidents the employees report. A higher reporting rate indicates employees’ active engagement and agility in reporting security attacks.
Incident response time: It measures your organization’s time to respond to cybersecurity incidents. A lower response time means a more robust human firewall.
Phishing test success: It measures how well employees respond to social engineering and phishing attempts. Depending on the test attack identification, you can determine the areas of improvement or the success of cybersecurity training and a human firewall.
Password hygiene: Measuring password reset frequency, password breach incidents, or the complexity of passwords employees use can help you determine the password hygiene employees maintain at your organization.
While there are several other metrics, such as security policy adherence and reduction in security incidents, the ones mentioned above are the generic metrics you can use to measure the effectiveness of your organization’s human firewall implementation.
Advantages of a Human Firewall
A human firewall is one of the major contributing factors behind the success of an organization’s robust security posture.
Here are a few key benefits of a human firewall for your company:
Empowered employees: A human firewall empowers employees to actively participate and create an impact in protecting their organizations and sensitive information—motivating them to follow the best security practices and report potential threats.
Reduced risks of malware and social engineering attacks: An aware and well-trained group of individuals are better equipped to detect and prevent cyberattacks and social engineering threats—reducing risks of unauthorized access.
Improved threat detection and prevention: A human firewall with a team of well-trained employees adds an additional security layer—helping detect and report cybersecurity risks quickly and reducing the attack’s dwell time.
Data loss and device theft: Theft of devices and data compromise leave organizations vulnerable. Educating employees about data and device security with a human firewall strategy significantly reduces risks of data loss—making employees more careful about their personal devices and sensitive company information.
Human error prevention: Even if one employee falls prey to phishing or other cyberattacks, it leaves the entire company network at risk. A human firewall not only educates employees about potential data breaches but also avoids human errors from escalating into a data breach.
Positive and trustworthy company culture: A security-conscious and alert organizational culture fosters a trustworthy and healthy work environment—making employees feel engaged and valued.
Cost-efficient: Investing in a human firewall consisting of security awareness training programs is more cost-efficient than only replying to security technologies or incurring the cost of removing the cyberattacks after getting compromised. With a human firewall, you can eliminate cyberattacks and prevent data breach costs in the first place.
Challenges Faced While Setting Up a Human Firewall
Implementing a human firewall strategy comes with its own set of challenges. Here are a few of them and tips to overcome them:
Limited security awareness: Not every employee within your organization would be aware or have cybersecurity knowledge about the best practices. Hence, a lack of security awareness can be a major challenge in making employees understand the risks of cybersecurity attacks.
Employee resistance: Most employees consider implementing security measures as a hindrance to their productivity. Hence, convincing these employees to adopt the best security practices and fostering a security culture within teams can be a major challenge for an organization.
Balancing security and usability: Overwhelming employees with excessive security measures and implementations can turn counter-productive in no time. Hence, it’s critical to maintain a healthy balance between usability and security to avoid the security fatigue challenge and employee frustration.
High training costs with a continuous turnover: While onboarding new employees is a sign of growth for your organization, frequent employee turnover and providing them with security training can get expensive, redundant, and time-consuming. Hence, addressing recurring turnovers and finding an automated cybersecurity training solution is essential to combat this challenge.
Insider security threats: The existence of insider threats is, at times, inevitable and a harsh reality of today’s corporate landscape. While a human firewall primarily addresses external threats, it’s also critical to malicious or negligent insiders that may welcome data breaches within your organization’s network.
While adopting the best cybersecurity tools, advanced technologies, and cyber resilience is crucial to mitigate evolving cyber risks, implementing a human firewall creates a strong foundation for your organization’s cybersecurity posture—significantly reducing risks of potential data breaches.
Enforcing cybersecurity awareness, education, and consistent training programs help employees stay on the tip of any malicious encounter, hold them accountable, and motivate them to report incidents—fostering a healthy and secure environment.
So, ensure you build a strong human firewall to make your organization cybersecurity ready.
Tejal is an experienced B2B SaaS content writer for eCommerce and marketing, specializing in web hosting, AI & ML, cloud and cybersecurity, SEO, and digital marketing. She holds a B.E degree in Electronics & Telecommunications… read more
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