Human Risk Management: A Step-By-Step Implementation Guide

A practical guide to effectively manage human risk in cybersecurity.

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Gareth Shelwell Published: April 05, 2024

In cybersecurity, it's often said that employees are the weakest link in the security chain. While rooted in reality, this notion is frequently exploited by cybersecurity providers to boost sales, casting employees in a villainous light.

Our methodology adopts a more positive stance.

We recognize that employees—the human element of your organization—are indeed vulnerable to cyber attacks. Yet, we also see their untapped potential as the organization's most powerful frontline defenders.

Image of business people in a line with a brief description of HRM

Before we discuss how to implement HRM in your organization, let's explore the concept in more detail and break it down into key elements.

What Is Human Risk Management?

What exactly is HRM? At its core, HRM is about identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks that arise from human behavior as it intersects with technology use within an organization.

Risk management, in a broad sense, involves recognizing and preparing for potential threats to a business. While often associated with financial or operational aspects, the concept extends significantly into the realm of cybersecurity.

Despite its significance, HRM is often overshadowed by the focus on technical risks. Many organizations invest heavily in cybersecurity measures, physical security, and other technical controls while underestimating the importance of the human element.

This oversight can be attributed to a misconception that technology alone can shield an organization from all forms of risk. However, more than technology is required to protect an organization fully. People, after all, are often the target of cyber attacks, and human error is the leading cause of breaches.

HRM in cybersecurity champions a pivotal change in how we view our employees. By equipping our team with the necessary awareness training and support, we empower them to become proactive defenders of our cyber world.

Image depicting that HRM encourages us to see them as our strongest asset

Rather than seeing them as the weakest link in our security chain, HRM encourages us to see them as our strongest asset.

This approach enhances an organization's security posture and fosters a culture where every employee is part of the cybersecurity solution. With HRM, the goal is clear: to leverage the collective strength and potential of the workforce to safeguard against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

Key Elements Of HRM

By focusing on the behaviors, practices, and awareness of every individual within an organization, HRM aims to fortify the overall security posture against cyber threats. This approach integrates several key elements that create an adaptive learning environment where each employee's needs are met, and human risk is effectively managed.

1. Employee Risk Profiling

Employee risk profiling involves evaluating each employee's potential cybersecurity risk based on outcomes from simulated phishing attacks and past training assignments. This profiling helps identify which employees might be more susceptible to cyber threats, allowing for targeted and tailored training.

2. Tailored Training

We can intelligently deliver training by utilizing key metrics identified during the employee risk profiling stage, such as employee risk scores and security IQ. Different levels of simulated phishing material and cybersecurity training content are tailored to each individual employee's understanding and skill level. For a deeper dive into current security awareness training topics, check out 'The 15 Most Popular Security Awareness Training Topics of 2024.'

3. Employee Engagement

Engagement fosters a positive security culture where employees feel responsible for cybersecurity. Engaged employees are more likely to be vigilant, follow security policies, report suspicious activities, and contribute to a culture of security awareness.

4. Dark Web Monitoring

Continuous dark web monitoring detects when sensitive company data (e.g., usernames and passwords) has appeared in a data breach, which could be used for targeted attacks. For an in-depth exploration of how to monitor the dark web and protect yourself, don't miss our detailed guide, 'Dark Web Monitoring: What You Need To Know In 2024.'

5. Human Risk Monitoring

Human Risk Monitoring actively tracks and analyzes employee behavior and vulnerabilities, providing a clear view of the organization's human risk factors. This process is enriched through the use of simulated phishing exercises, comprehensive dashboards, detailed risk scoring, and in-depth reporting. These tools collectively enhance the understanding of training program effectiveness and pinpoint trends in phishing susceptibility.

Image depicting the 5 key elements of HRM

Continuous assessment facilitates the prompt adjustment of HRM strategies, guaranteeing their ongoing efficacy in reducing human-centric cybersecurity risks. This proactive approach ensures that organizations can swiftly adapt to evolving threats, maintaining a robust defense against potential security breaches.

Implementing HRM In Your Organization

Now that we've established what HRM is and how it plays a pivotal role in fortifying an organization's defenses, it's time to discuss the steps to implementing your HRM strategy. Here's how you can embed HRM into the fabric of your organization's security culture:

Step 1. Identify Vulnerabilities

Start by assessing employees' current state of awareness and behavior regarding cybersecurity. Identify common vulnerabilities, such as susceptibility to phishing, poor password practices, or unauthorized information sharing. Are you interested in sending your own simulated phishing emails? 'Learn How To Send A Test Phishing Email In 5 Steps.'

Step 2. Deploy Training and Awareness Programs

Develop ongoing cybersecurity training and awareness programs tailored to each employee within the organization based on step 1. Use engaging content and regular updates to keep cybersecurity top of mind. Incorporate techniques from behavioral psychology to encourage secure behaviors, such as gamification. We've created a handy guide 'How To Gamify Cyber Security Training In 3 Steps' to help you get started!

Step 3. Establish Clear Processes

Establish clear processes for security-related activities, such as reporting suspicious emails or requesting access to sensitive information. Ensure these processes are easy to follow and well communicated.

Step 4. Continuously Monitor And Review

Regularly reassess the human risk landscape through surveys, simulated phishing exercises, and security audits. Use this information to adjust the HRM strategy as needed.

Incorporating HRM into your organization is not a one-off task but a continuous journey toward a resilient cybersecurity posture. With the right approach, what was once a weakness becomes the bedrock of your organization's defense against digital threats.

How To Fast-Track Implementation

Creating a robust HRM can be daunting. It requires constant tweaking, monitoring, and refinement to achieve the desired results. CanIPhish flips the script and automates every step of the journey, allowing you to leverage our advanced platform and expertise to implement your HRM strategy rapidly.

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Let's break down each key element and explore how CanIPhish provides a solution.

Use Phishing Simulations To Determine Employee Risk Profiles

We ascertain each employee's overall risk profile by conducting an automatic and ongoing analysis of outcomes from phishing simulations and prior training sessions. Recent campaigns have a greater impact than older ones, which means that maintaining a low-risk profile necessitates consistent participation in recent activities.

Tailor Training With Machine Learning

By leveraging employee risk scores derived from phishing simulation results and security IQ scores obtained from previous training activities, we deliver precisely customized content that automatically aligns with each employee's risk profile and skill level, eliminating the need for constant content selection and fine-tuning. This approach ensures that the training is both relevant and effective.

Engage Employees With Gamification

Engagement often poses a significant challenge for those adopting a DIY approach, as crafting fresh, relevant content tailored to a diverse workforce requires considerable effort and resources. Recognizing the necessity for training content to truly resonate with employees, CanIPhish steps in to bridge this gap. Our platform boasts high production quality and an extensive library of meticulously developed content, ensuring a wide array of options for every unique requirement.

Moreover, CanIPhish integrates gamification seamlessly into the experience, encouraging active participation and sustained interest. Employees can earn badges, download certificates of completion, and engage in friendly competition via the company leaderboard, making learning not just informative but enjoyable. This approach not only enhances engagement but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and recognition.

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Detect Emerging Threats With Dark Web Monitoring

CanIPhish offers seamless and continuous dark web monitoring for all your employees. This proactive approach enables organizations to be fully aware of their exposure on the dark web. By identifying compromised information early, businesses can mitigate risks effectively through measures like enforcing password resets, notifying impacted users, and enhancing security protocols. Although dark web monitoring serves as a passive defense layer, the insights it delivers are vital for formulating active defense strategies and ensuring a more secure organizational posture.

Monitor Human Risk And Build A Human Firewall

By aggregating employee risk profiles, security intelligence profiles, and dark web information, you gain a clear overview of your organizational human risk. Equipped with this information, you can more effectively target those individuals in need of additional training and progressively build your first and most effective line of defense, your human firewall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can technological measures reduce human risk?

Technological measures can partially reduce human risk by providing security defenses like email filtering and intrusion detection systems. However, these technologies can't entirely prevent human errors or risky behaviors. A comprehensive approach, blending technology with targeted human risk management strategies like training and awareness programs, is necessary for effective risk reduction.

How do you determine your human risk?

Determining human risk involves evaluating employees' cybersecurity behaviors, their responses to simulated phishing tests, and their engagement with training programs. Platforms like CanIPhish are useful for gathering data on these behaviors, enabling the creation of individual risk profiles. These profiles help identify which employees are more likely to pose a risk based on their actions and training outcomes.

How do you implement a human risk management strategy?

Implementing a human risk management (HRM) strategy involves several key steps:

  1. Vulnerability Assessment: Start by assessing the current cybersecurity awareness and practices among employees. Identify areas where employees are most vulnerable to cyber threats.
  2. Tailored Training: Develop targeted training programs that address the identified vulnerabilities. The training should be engaging and relevant, using real-life scenarios and interactive, high-quality content.
  3. Process Implementation: Establish clear, simple-to-follow cybersecurity protocols. Ensure all employees are aware of these processes and understand their importance.
  4. Continuous Monitoring: Use tools to continuously monitor the effectiveness of the HRM strategy, adjusting training and protocols as necessary to address emerging threats and behaviors. Monitoring helps ensure that your HRM strategy remains robust over time.

Leveraging technology is highly recommended to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your HRM strategy. Platforms like CanIPhish can significantly streamline the HRM process. They offer automation capabilities for tasks such as risk profiling, training customization, and effectiveness monitoring. By providing valuable insights into employee risk profiles and tailoring training content accordingly, such platforms support a proactive stance in managing human risk and strengthening your organization's cybersecurity posture.

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Gareth Shelwell

An Operations Manager dedicated to helping you safely swim amongst the internet of phish!