The Problem With Cyber Security Hacks Is…Humans

When selecting a technology provider, cyber security features and protocols are at the top of agencies’ considerations. But, as we described in an earlier article “Utilities are Vulnerable to Cyber Security Breaches Too!” But what is not often considered is the effect users of the technology have on cyber security.

“Sometimes a clearly defined error is the only way to discover the truth,” Benjamin D. Wiker.

More government agencies and users are finding this lesson out the hard way. Despite their aggressive security features, there is one common denominator in security breaches that can’t be managed by great software: users.

To error is oh-so-human, and that is why hackers are targeting people, not computers, using “manual hijacking” methods to compromise users’ email accounts and gather information needed to breach the system.

Manual hijacking has a variety of tactics to solicit information from its victims. For example, a text message suggesting there was a security breech asking a user to login using a phony link, or a deceptive email phishing for information such as usernames, passwords or personal information.

These “social engagement hackers” prey on human vulnerabilities, and do so with a high success rate. The same things that are supposed to make us feel secure about our information can be used against us. But there are some basic tips to avoid falling victim to a hacking scheme or cyber security breach.

10 Tips to Avoid Cyber Hacks

  1. Log out of your accounts. Simply logging out of your accounts makes it more difficult to be hacked. Shutting your laptop won’t do! Even with your laptop closed, your computer is still vulnerable because your accounts are still open, especially when you are in public places.
  2. Lock your computer when not in use. If you leave your desk, or walk away from your laptop, take the extra two seconds to lock your computer to avoid a very easy breach.
  3. Update your passwords. As frustrating as it is, you can safeguard your information by updating your passwords and using strong case-sensitive, alpha-numeric passwords. And never, ever, keep a list of passwords on your computer or email.
  4. Be careful when using unsecure WIFI. At home, be sure to secure your WIFI to protect against easy entry to your computer, network and accounts. Provide a separate public WIFI for visitors to your office to keep them off of the secure network. If you choose to use public WIFI at the airport or local coffee shop, try to avoid using your work computer, and make sure your security software is up to date. When on public WIFI, avoid logging into accounts with highly sensitive data.
  5. Don’t follow links from email addresses or phone numbers you don’t recognize. Before following a link, no matter how convincing, do a little research or contact the company in question directly. Don’t trust a seemingly legit link based on professional looking graphics and a convincing email address.
  6. Keep your software up to date. Make sure your software and security settings are up to date. Many agencies use a cloud-based system to automatically load updates on the network. This helps prevent a security breach from out of date software.
  7. Watch out for finger slips. Because we are human, we all make typos sometimes. Social engagement hackers know this, so they create copycat sites on commonly mis-typed websites. A slip of a finger can lead you to a bogus website claiming to be your bank, accounting software, or retirement website.
  8. Use encrypted apps. Apps for messaging, emails, and other information exchanges should be encrypted to avoid easy hacking by eavesdroppers looking to steal information from you.
  9. Don’t download from unfamiliar sites. Never download anything from an un-trusted site. This includes pictures, music, forms, or reports.
  10. Don’t fall for things that are “too good to be true.” If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. So avoid links, pop ups or emails that suck you in with promises of things too good to be true.


Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. Even the greatest security software can be jeopardized if the user is irresponsible with their data. But if we lock it, protect it, and keep it to ourselves, the likelihood of an attack goes down dramatically.

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