Human Error: The Cause of Cyber Security Violations

Making errors is an essential aspect of the human experience; it is how people learn and grow. Human errors, however, are much too often neglected in cyber security.


As per the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, human error is the primary cause of 95% of cyber security breaches. Rising cybercriminals, data theft, and harm to personal information have grown the demand for cybersecurity. According to Astute Analytica, the global cybersecurity market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13.4% from 2022 to 2030.


So, why do human errors cause so many breaches, and why have prior remedies failed to eliminate this issue? Let’s look at what causes a human error and what you can do to improve employee cyber behavior in your company.

Human error refers to employees’ and users’ actions – or inaction – that causes or enables security breach.


There are many behaviors that can lead to malware infection, from opening a malicious attachment to not using a strong password, making it difficult to combat.


As if struggling to make the proper decisions wasn’t hard enough, end-users now have to contend with the continual threat of cybercriminals influencing their conclusions. Social engineering is becoming more common in all forms of security breaches. In addition, it helps to take advantage of employees’ willingness to pass up data or credentials to bad actors without developing a single line of malware or a software vulnerability.

Human Error Category

While the possibilities for human error are nearly limitless, they can divide into two categories: skill-based and decision-based errors. The difference between these two boils down to whether or not the person has the necessary knowledge to carry out the proper conduct.


Based on skill errors

Slips and lapses are examples of skill-based human error: tiny mistakes made when doing routine tasks and activities. Sometimes, the end-user is aware of the correct course of action but fails to follow it due to a lapse in judgment, an error, or neglect. These can occur when an employee is tired, not paying attention, preoccupied, or has a temporary memory lapse.


Based on decision errors

When a user makes a poor decision, this is known as a decision-based error. There are a variety of causes that contribute to this, including the user’s lack of understanding, lack of information about the specific case, or even their lack of awareness that they are making a decision by their inaction.


Effective security awareness training reduces human mistakes.

With intelligently-automated cyber security awareness training, your staff will learn how security helps organizations promote secure behavior.

Some examples of human error in company

Human error can damage the company’s security in several ways, but some types of error stand out above the rest in terms of frequency. Let’s take a look at a few of the most prevalent mistakes.



Misdelivery or sending something to the wrong person is a popular security risk for businesses. Misdelivery was the fifth most common source of all cyber security breaches, according to Verizon’s 2018 breach report. Many individuals rely on e-mail client features like auto-suggest, making it easy for anyone to send personal information to the wrong person.


Human error led to the most significant data breaches when an NHS practice sent out the e-mail addresses (and consequently names) of over 800 patients who had visited HIV clinics. What caused the error? When sending an e-mail notification to HIV patients, the employee unintentionally typed their e-mail addresses in the “to” area instead of the “bcc” field, exposing their personal information to each other. It is a perfect example of a skill-based error because the employee understood the right thing but didn’t take the time to do it correctly.


Password issues

Passwords and humans do not get along. The findings in the 2019 report from the National Centre for Cyber Security paint a bleak picture: The most popular password in the world is still 123456, and 45% of individuals reuse their e-mail account passwords on other sites. Untrained users make a variety of password blunders, including writing passwords on post-it notes on their monitors or sharing them with colleagues, in addition to not creating strong, unique passwords.



Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for new software flaws. When a vulnerability discovers, software developers rush to repair it and distribute the patch to all users before fraudsters may compromise more people. It is why it is critical for users to install security updates as soon as they become available. Unfortunately, end-users frequently put off installing updates, which has disastrous consequences.


The WannaCry ransomware outbreak in 2017 damaged hundreds of thousands of computers throughout the world, resulting in millions of dollars in losses for businesses and organizations. Despite this, Microsoft patched the EternalBlue exploit used months before the attacks. If the impacted PCs had just downloaded and installed the security update, they would be fine.


Physical safety errors

While cyberattacks are the most common cause of data breaches, organizations are also vulnerable to physical dangers. If unauthorized parties gain access to secure premises, they can steal or view confidential information and credentials.


Physical security mistakes can take many forms, but the most typical is leaving critical documents on desks, meeting rooms, or even printer output trays unattended. Anyone who has access to the firm premises can take up the paper without anyone realizing it has vanished.


Allowing tailgating is another very typical physical security mistake. Tailgating occurs when an unauthorized person walks close behind someone as they pass past a security door or barrier. Many employees will consider it impolite to challenge somebody who is following them.

Aspects Causing Human Error

Several factors cause a human error, but a maximum of them reduce down to three: possibility, environment, and lack of understanding. Cyber Security Trends helps to have more awareness about Cyber Security .



Human error can only happen when there is a chance to happen. That may sound self-evident, but the point is that the more opportunities there are for something to go wrong, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.



Many things in the environment can increase the likelihood of errors. The physical environment can have a huge impact on the number of mistakes that happen. While any construction worker will tell the user that errors are more likely on hot or cold days, the same factors apply to offices. While the correct office temperature is vital, other factors such as privacy, noise level, and posture can contribute to a more error-prone atmosphere.


Lack of understanding

End-users often make mistakes because they don’t know what the appropriate course of action is in the first place. Users unaware of the risk of phishing are significantly more likely to fall prey to phishing attempts and unaware of the risks of public Wi-Fi networks will have their credentials stolen rapidly. A lack of knowledge is virtually never the user’s fault. It is something that the organization should address to guarantee that their end-users have the knowledge and skills they need to keep themselves and the company safe.

Factors that can prevent human error in the business

Human mistakes can only happen when there is a chance to happen. Thus, it’s critical to minimize as many opportunities for it as possible. On the other hand, it is inevitable that end-users will continue to make mistakes if they do not understand the necessary procedures and hazards. To close this gap, you must address human error from both sides in order to build a holistic defense for the company.


Decrease the possibilities

The best way to begin the mitigation efforts is to change work methods, procedures, and technologies in order to limit the chance for error. While the individual activities and settings of the business will determine how companies do this, there are some general suggestions for reducing the risk of human error.


Privilege control: Ensure that users only have access to the data and functionality required to do their jobs. Even if the user makes a mistake that results in a breach, the amount of information exposed decreases.


Password management: Distancing the users from passwords can help reduce risks, as password-related mistakes are the source of human error. The users may create and store strong passwords using password management programs instead of having to remember them or risk writing them down on post-it notes. To provide an extra degree of security to the accounts, a user should require using two-factor authentication across your company.


Transform the culture

Human error can reduce by cultivating a security-focused culture. Taking security with every decision and activity in a security culture end-users will actively look for and discuss security issues as they arise.


There are several things’ organizations can do to assist the company in developing a security-conscious culture.


Encourage conversation: Getting people to talk about security is one of the best ways to keep it at the forefront. Bring up security-related discussion topics, and make sure they are relevant to your end-user’s day-to-day job activities more inclined to participate. It will assist them in determining what they can do individually to maintain the firm’s security.


Make it simple for people to ask inquiries:  The end-users will very certainly come into several scenarios where they are unclear of the security implications as part of the learning process. In these cases, they’d rather ask another knowledgeable person than guess and risk making the wrong decision on their own. Ensure that someone is available at all times to answer end-user queries in a polite manner, and reward those who ask good questions.


Use reminders and posters: Security posters and tips act as small reminders to keep your end-users thinking about security throughout the day. A poster containing information about strong passwords, for example, will allow people in order to see the requirement to keep their credentials secure.


Educate users with training

While limiting mistake opportunities is critical, you must also consider the reasons for error from a human perspective. Educating the staff about security fundamentals and best practices allows them to make smarter decisions, keep security in mind, and seek additional guidance when they’re unsure of the ramifications of a certain action.


Train staff on fundamental security subjects: Because human error can manifest in many ways, it’s critical to provide employees with a foundational understanding of any security topics they might encounter in their daily work activities. Subjects included are e-mail, the internet, social media usage, phishing, and virus training.

Closing Note:

Human error must address from two perspectives: minimizing opportunity and educating users. The fewer opportunities for error, the less the users’ knowledge will challenge – and the more information the users have, the less likely they are to make a mistake even when given the chance.

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