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How HR Is Involved in Managing Cyber Risk

How HR Is Involved in Managing Cyber Risk
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It’s estimated that 61% of small businesses were the target of a cyber attack in 2021. Things like malware, phishing scams, and other viruses continue to take their toll on local family businesses to large corporations. No one is completely safe or immune from these attacks. We’ve seen huge companies like Yahoo and LinkedIn fall victim to various cyber threats over the years. 

While it’s important for every branch of your company – no matter how big or small – to do their part, HR is more involved in cyber risk management than you might think. When it comes to handling sensitive data, every employee needs to be on the same page. They should know your company policies, have the right training, and know what to do to keep sensitive information safe and secure. 

Let’s take a deeper look into exactly how HR is involved in cyber risk management, and what your team should be doing to prevent cyberattacks today, and on a long-term basis. 


Develop Security Policies

As an HR professional, you’re undoubtedly used to putting together employee handbooks and creating and amending company policies. Make sure you don’t overlook a cybersecurity policy. Depending on your industry, there’s a good chance many of the people you hire won’t have experience with cybersecurity. Most people don’t have extensive background knowledge of how to keep themselves and their data safe online in a professional setting. 

Start by educating yourself on the greatest cybersecurity risks today. It should be an ongoing educational process so you can stay up-to-date with the best protective practices. 

As you put together your cybersecurity policy, take note of the assets and data you most want to protect, and make sure your policy accurately reflects the importance of data security. While your security policies will be exclusive to your business, some of the most important steps to include are: 

  • Password requirements;

  • Email security measures;

  • Explaining how to handle sensitive data;

  • Setting rules about handling technology;

  • Setting standards for internet access.

Finally, you should prepare yourself for incidents. Policies and procedures shouldn’t just be in place as preventative measures. Your employees also need to know what to do if an attack occurs. Having a guideline in front of them will make it easier to stay calm and work through the situation effectively, rather than your whole workplace going into a state of panic with no clear sense of direction. 

Provide Adequate Training 

Of course, it’s not enough to give employees a handbook about handling sensitive data and expect them to know exactly what to do. Providing training will help all employees know how to implement the best practices for cyber risk management, and give them more confidence to know what to do if there is a breach. 

First, focus on password security training — making sure all employee passwords are long enough, use multiple character sets, and aren’t shared across different accounts. 

It’s also essential to train your employees on what to look for. Not everyone can readily recognize a phishing scam or socially-engineered attack, and cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and crafty than ever. While you might not be able to completely eliminate human error when it comes to these attacks, you can train your staff by: 

  • Encouraging them to check sender email addresses for anything abnormal;

  • Having them scan attachments before opening them;

  • Showing them how to hover over links before officially clicking them to see where they land.

It’s not just your in-office staff that needs to stay up-to-date with cybersecurity training. Remote work is more common than ever. If you have employees working from home, your HR team should be responsible for training them on digital software, programs, accounts, and other digital tools. When they’re using a home computer and their own network, the risks of a data breach are even greater. Maintaining effective communication is already often a challenge for HR professionals working with a remote team. Make sure part of that communication includes keeping your work-from-home employees up-to-date with cybersecurity practices

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Ensure Compliance

Accidents happen. Human error is a major problem when it comes to data breaches and cyber-attacks. However, it’s essential to have regulations in place that hold individuals accountable if/when an attack does occur. 

Some regions across the country (and the globe) are implementing privacy regulations. These regulations come with guidelines that make it clear how data should be collected and implemented. Even if your region doesn’t yet have those regulations in place, your company should. If an employee isn’t compliant, it’s the responsibility of the HR team to determine accountability, provide guidance for the future, or determine if any disciplinary action needs to take place. 

No one wants to think about the aftermath of how a cyber attack might affect employees. However, if you run a thorough investigation after a breach and determine any foul play rather than an honest mistake, it’s important to ensure compliance and hold those individuals accountable for their actions. Make that clear in your policy, and you’ll protect yourself from disgruntled employees who might want to fight back against those accusations. 

Manage Employee Data Controls and Access

HR is usually the first point of communication for a new employee. It’s common for HR professionals to set up new accounts, give passwords and usernames, and access to certain programs, documents, and cloud-based services. However, not every new employee may need access to the same things. Managing employee access and keeping track of data controls will reduce the risk of sensitive data getting in the wrong hands. This includes implementing Kubernetes security best practices, particularly when using cloud-based services, to ensure robust container orchestration security.

During the onboarding process, make specific determinations with each employee, including: 

  • Which data is most critical;

  • Whether that employee needs access to it;

  • How should that access be controlled;

  • Whether an employee’s access will change over time.

Things like password-protected documents and limited access to cloud-based programs are easy and effective ways to keep sensitive data from being seen by the wrong people. Don’t assume that every employee requires equal access. Instead, focus on their role and what information will be necessary for their job. 

Additionally, HR is usually the last point of communication after an employee is let go or leaves the company. Keeping your finger on employee data controls and access makes it easy to go through the off-boarding process with confidence. The last thing you want to have to deal with is a disgruntled employee who shares sensitive data or does something malicious to your network before they leave. 

You’re in a unique position to establish a culture of cybersecurity within your business. When a new hire understands right away how serious your brand is about managing cyber risks and protecting sensitive data, they’ll jump on board faster, and be willing to learn more about how they can do their part to protect your business’ assets. However, don’t stop with onboarding. Make cybersecurity education and training a regular occurrence. 

It’s something that should occur more than once a year since cybercriminals are changing their tactics constantly. While you might think there are other departments – including IT – who are more equipped to handle cyber risk management, your team will look to you first, and you have the opportunity to create an environment where people understand the importance of cybersecurity best practices, handling sensitive data, and they know how to do it correctly. 

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Author Bio:

This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.


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