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HR’S Role in Preventing Cyberattacks

Cyberattacks have been a growing concern for employers across the globe in recent years. Often, cybercriminals breach organizations via their employees. All it takes is one employee clicking on a phishing email (a fraudulent message intended to trick recipients into compromising critical data) for a cyberattack to originate.

This is where HR comes in. HR teams are often tasked with communicating policy updates and workplace expectations. When it comes to cybersecurity, HR is naturally suited to partner with IT and provide basic educational resources. The purpose of this blog is to offer tips to help HR teams protect employees and their organizations from cyberattacks. 

Understand the Risks and Strategize Accordingly

While it’s true that cybercriminals frequently target individuals’ personal information, that’s not their only goal. Sometimes, malicious actors will then take that personal information and use it to gain access to other secure points—potentially affecting other systems beyond the breached organization itself. For instance, a cybercriminal may steal an employee’s login and password, then use those details to access customer databases or even critical infrastructure. 

A prime example of this is when cybercriminals took down Kronos, the ubiquitous timekeeping software. With the cloud-based system down globally, employees couldn’t clock in or out—time punches were simply inaccessible. Obviously, this proved very disruptive for payroll and time tracking. Yet, the larger takeaway is that even if an employer does everything right, they can still be impacted if a vendor experiences a cybersecurity breach. 

That’s why it’s important for HR teams to think about the vendors and systems they rely upon. These may include timekeeping software, case management software or learning management systems. Consider what would happen if any one of those tools stopped working or became inaccessible. How would that impact operations? 

Considering these potential scenarios can help HR teams better strategize their responses. For instance, if timekeeping software were to break down, perhaps employees would be required to use an HR-provided paper form to track their time. 

Additionally, with the vulnerability of cloud-based systems, HR teams can think about regularly backing up and archiving critical information, including customer details, time-tracking data or transaction receipts. Essentially, if a vendor system breaks down, HR still needs to ensure day-to-day operations can run smoothly. 

Develop Cyber Training and Contingency Plans 

Preparation is key for protecting an organization from cyberattacks. This primarily entails ensuring monitoring and security measures are in place to prevent breaches and detect when they occur. While this preparation is a responsibility for IT, HR teams can partner with them to help contribute to cybersecurity in their own way: employee training and contingency planning. 

Every employee in an organization should be trained on proper cybersecurity protocols and best practices. This includes knowing how to spot a phishing scam, maintaining strong passwords, using unique passwords for different logins and reporting suspicious database activity. While HR teams likely aren’t comprised of IT experts, they can still help disseminate these and other cybersecurity best practices to employees. Even basic precautions can make a huge difference in protecting against breaches of critical data. 

However, not every breach is preventable, nor are all breaches the same. It’s one thing for a cybercriminal to get a list of first names; it’s another thing for them to steal both names and Social Security numbers. Moreover, employers can still have their data compromised even if they take all the right steps. For example, a breach may occur at a third-party vendor—a situation over which employers have no control. This means it’s also vital for HR teams to strategize about cyberattack contingency plans. 

Essentially, these plans can help employers make sense of a data breach once it occurs and kick off the recovery process. Generally, a cyberattack contingency (or response) plan should cover the following aspects: 

  • What data has been impacted?
  • How sensitive was the data (i.e., does the breached data include addresses, Social Security numbers or banking information)?
  • What is the employer’s obligation to report the data breach (i.e., sometimes customers, employees, the government or all the above need to be notified)?
  • Based on the type of data breach, how quickly must the incident be reported to applicable parties? 

Depending on an employer’s state and industry, the answers to these questions will vary. That’s why it’s essential to address these issues in a cyberattack contingency plan before a breach occurs. Employers should speak with legal counsel for help understanding their coverage risks. 

Assess a Breach and Be Responsive to Employees 

While employee credentials may not be the intended target of a breach, they can still get swept up during the cyberattack along with other pieces of personal data. Therefore, HR teams should be ready to field employee questions related to a breach and have meaningful response measures in place. For instance, if employee data is compromised (potentially or actually), employers may provide free identity theft protection or credit activity monitoring services to their staff. 

Reach Out to a Human Resources Expert to Learn More

For additional information about preventing cyberattacks in your workplace, talk with the HR specialists at VTC Insurance Group. Give us a call at 248.828.3377 or visit vtcins.com.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. 

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