Vulnerabilities / Threats

2/18/2015
05:15 PM
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End Users Causing Bulk Of Infosec Headaches

Report shows 80 percent of IT pros blame users for their security woes.

Misconfigured systems and software vulnerabilities may cause their share of woes in the information security world, but the actions of end users perennially serve up the worst nightmares for infosec professionals. That fact was confirmed again today with a new survey conducted by Bromium that shows nearly 80 percent of security professionals name end users as their biggest security headache.

The survey showed that among the most dangerous activities end users participate in, clicking on suspicious or malicious links, opening suspicious or malicious attachments, and bypassing security controls are the ones that introduce the most risk to the business.

This is further exacerbated by the ever-increasing targeting of these weak links by cybercriminals; according to a separate report out today by Agari, approximately three-fourths of all companies are at high risk of malicious email attacks.

In many cases, employees engage in risky behavior due to a lack of awareness of what risky links or emails look like, or why security controls are in place. According to a study conducted by Aberdeen Group, user awareness and training can reduce risk by about 60 percent.

"Actions that are taken by individual end-users – the networks and devices we use, the files we send and receive, the apps we install and run, the links we click on, the emails we open –are behaviors that result in a high percentage of security infections," says Derek Brink, analyst for Aberdeen Group.

However, that is only one part of the puzzle.

"In addition to struggling to maintain control over their users, many information security professionals are struggling to maintain control over their current security systems," the Bromium report stated.

The survey by Bromium showed that security professionals are also overwhelmed by the volume of attacks and the management of duplicative solutions meant to protect users' machines. Almost half of security pros noted that multiple, redundant point solutions introduce the most cost and complexity into their security. And the majority—over 60 percent—report that they investigate or respond to 50 percent or less of their security alerts.

"This represents a huge security gap," the Bromium report states. "It is a challenging time for information security professionals, because the traditional security model has been unable to scale with the volume of transactions generated by the modern enterprise."

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2015 | 8:29:55 AM
Re: Stop blaming the user
One cool proactive step that can be done to promote user security awareness is phishing exercises. I know tools such as metasploit have the capability to perform these test runs and output statistical data to see where your company is lacking.
Kwattman
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Kwattman,
User Rank: Black Belt
2/25/2015 | 11:55:14 AM
Re: Stop blaming the user
Agreed. Sadly, the majority of companies either do not train or reply on 1x-2x a year training for users. This is not enough to raise awarenress and train users effectively. Aberdeen is right and we've seen massive reduction in risk, APTs and attacks when users are trained AND kept aware with regularly phishing tests. 
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 1:11:13 PM
Re: Stop blaming the user
I agree mainly, I would add unsecured network to that list. At the end of the day security is a layered journey.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 1:08:30 PM
Re: Stop blaming the user
Phishing is one thing and emails with attachments and links are very common these days. A few friends I know experienced malware coming via email in their networks recently.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 12:59:41 PM
Re: Stop blaming the user
I agree, the users are just trying to get their talks done, they do not want anytugn to do with the system to start with, they want to finish their daily tasks and go home and have a peaceful night. :--))
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 12:56:26 PM
Blame users?
We can continue to blame users, that is an each approach for IT professionals, the problem is that that would not change the ultimate outcome. We will continue to be in fighting security problems with that approach.
macker490
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50%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2015 | 9:15:41 AM
Re: Stop blaming the user
(1) email should be authenticated.   the means of doing this has been available for years: use PGP/Desktop or ENIGMAIL with Thunderbird if you are into FSF

(2) your operating software should not allow itself to be compromised by the actions of an erroneous or improper application program.    that has been a guideline since System/360 -- date 1964.  It was baked into x86 witht he release of 80386,-- but theO/S must properly implement the available tools
macker490
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50%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2015 | 9:12:16 AM
Re: Stop blaming the user
no, Erica : it's INSECURE SOFTWARE that is the problem.
RyanSepe
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50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2015 | 9:30:40 AM
Re: Stop blaming the user
I agree @Marilyn Cohodas. Phishing emails are becoming more and more authentic looking and even the most security savvy users will fall victim when going through a routine. Drive by downloads are also difficult to tackle as user interaction is not required. Yes user awareness training is defintely a monumental help but will not be a silver bullet.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 9:36:55 AM
Stop blaming the user
Let's not blame the victim here. Sure users can be careless sometimes (alright , lots of times), but given the sophistication of attacks today, many of the most knowledgeable information security professionals concede that they too can be tricked by a well-crafted phishing email. Don't believe me? ICYMI, read 5 Myths: Why We Are All Data Security Risks.
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