In 2015, A job application that appeared to have come from a man named Rasel Ahlam gave hackers access to networks belonging to the bank of Bangladesh. The perfectly worded but fake job application presented Rasel Ahlam as a man who was excited to get a job at the bank. A bank employee working in the HR department clicked on the malicious email and gave attackers a direct entry into the system.
The hackers stayed in the bank’s system for several months and managed to get away with USD 81 million. The hackers would have easily gotten away with over one billion dollars had the massive transactions not been stopped.
The story of the 2015 Bangladesh bank hack is a perfect example of how vulnerable human resource systems have become to attacks. Hackers target human resource systems intending to use them as stepping stones to get into other parts of the system. They leverage the fact that as part of their job, human resource professionals must always open emails and attachments, even from unknown sources.
Hackers also target human resource systems because they hold massive amounts of sensitive data about employees. They will then use this data to lay more sophisticated and “customized” attacks. Human resource departments are also the major recruiters of insider attackers. The 2022 Ponemon Cost of Insider Threats Global Report indicates a 44% rise in insider threats, with the cost per every insider attack incident up to $15.38 million on average.
HR Data Security Measures You Should Employ to Secure Your HR Systems
Like all other systems and networks of a company, HR systems should be protected with proper security measures to keep attackers at bay. The following are the seven best security measures you should implement to secure your human resource data.
- Keep the Human Resource Department in Sync with the IT Team
Human resource departments often require software to run their day-to-day activities. These systems and software are concerned with managing existing company data and collecting proper insights for robust data management.
Because these systems deal with sensitive data, they should remain under full-time watch and scrutiny. This is only possible if the human resource department remains in sync with the IT team. The IT team will assess all software and resources to ensure they are free from any vulnerabilities or security loopholes that could bring forth data breaches.
- The HR Team Should Stick to Safe Websites and Software
Malicious software could carry bugs and malware that could harm your HR data. Before installing software on your HR systems, it is prudent that you do your due diligence to ensure the software is safe from any harm. You should especially be keen, if best avoid, downloading software from unrecognized third parties. Such pirated software contains malicious codes that are out to steal your data.
Your HR team should visit secure websites. Hackers have a tendency to create malicious websites that look genuine but with the ill motive of stealing data from unsuspecting users. Before visiting any website, your team members should check its authenticity. They can do so by checking the details embedded in the SSL certificate. There are different SSL certs for example Comodo SSL certificate, GlobalSign SSL Certificate, and Rapid SSL to secure the website’s data and establish trust among visitors. In any case, if a website does not have an SSL certificate or other trust badges, it is best to avoid visiting such a website.
- Enable Strict Permission Controls
The principle of the least privilege should apply to your HR systems. Only employees or HR team members whose job descriptions relate to system data should be granted access. For instance, there is no point in an executive seeing the social security number or bank details of a job applicant or employee. Setting clear boundaries that limit certain individuals from accessing specific resources could go a long way toward eliminating cases of insider attacks.
Enabling strict permission controls does not mean you doubt the loyalty of employees. Access controls help to safeguard your HR data and other resources from hackers and insider threat actors. It also ensures accountability and the smooth running of the entire organization.
- Enforce Best Password Practices Across the HR Department
Hackers find it easy to use brute force attacks and other password-cracking techniques to bypass authentication lines. HR employees who use weak passwords could be the weakest link attackers use to get into your HR systems.
As a best practice, you must ensure that all HR team members use the strongest passwords possible when securing their gateways. Strong passwords are those that are hard to guess, unique, and complex. You can set a limit on the character length of passwords and ensure all employees change passwords frequently. In addition to passwords, you should urge all HR team members to implement two-factor authentication. The 2FA adds an extra security layer to authentication gateways, thereby shielding your system from brute force attempts and dictionary attacks.
- Be Aware of Phishing Attacks
Like the case of the 2015 Bangladesh hack, attackers will leverage the power of social-engineering attacks to infiltrate your systems. You should educate your HR team about the aspects of phishing attacks. It would help if you taught them how to spot phishing attempts and what to do in case of a phishing attempt.
Hr teams should be warned about rushing to download attachments and clicking on links before verifying their source. The best way to educate your HR team on these aspects is by having frequent cybersecurity training and awareness program.
- Ensure All Software and Operating Systems are Up To Date
Sometimes hackers leverage loopholes existing in old software versions to carry out attacks. Software developers are always on the look for such loopholes. They will release new and updated software versions to fix these loopholes. You should be on the lookout for these releases and ensure you install them once they are released and tested. Failing to update your software and operating system will open your HR systems to attack.
- Run Regular Security Scanning and Testing on your HR Systems
It is not easy to establish the source of security vulnerabilities unless you run a security scan. Security scans help to point out common loopholes in your system that hackers could leverage. You can conduct these tests and scans once or twice a year. If any vulnerabilities are discovered, you should immediately fix them.
HR systems carry a lot of sensitive data that hackers want. It is important that you secure your HR systems to keep malicious actors at bay. This article has explored the seven best tips to secure your HR data from hackers. As a security best practice, ensure you implement all measures explained in this article. More measures mean more security for your HR systems.