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Why Should Your HR Department Pay Extra Attention to Cybersecurity?

Tue, 7 Nov 2023

Why Should Your HR Department Pay Extra Attention to Cybersecurity?

Data breaches and cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common in today's digital landscape, affecting businesses of all sizes and industries.

With the rise in remote work and the increased reliance on technology, it has become crucial for organisations to prioritise cybersecurity.

But what about the HR department? Why should they pay extra attention to cybersecurity?

The HR department holds a wealth of sensitive employee information, including personal details, social security numbers, and financial data. This makes them a prime target for hackers looking to steal valuable information.

Additionally, HR departments are responsible for managing employee onboarding and offboarding processes, which involve handling and transferring confidential data.

Neglecting cybersecurity measures in HR can lead to severe consequences, such as identity theft, reputational damage, and legal liabilities.

In this article, we will explore the importance of cybersecurity in HR and discuss the potential risks and consequences of not prioritising it.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity, also known as information technology security, refers to the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks.

Its purpose is to decrease the likelihood of cyber-attacks and safeguard organisations and individuals from unauthorised exploitation of systems, networks, and technologies.

Key concepts and principles of cybersecurity include network security, data protection, and risk management.

Network security involves implementing measures to secure a computer infrastructure against misuse, unauthorised access, malfunction, modification, destruction, or improper disclosure.

On the other hand, data protection is the process of safeguarding important information from corruption, compromise, or loss. It ensures that data is stored, transferred, and used in a secure manner.

Risk management is a crucial principle in cybersecurity that involves identifying, assessing, and prioritising risks, followed by the coordinated and cost-effective allocation of resources to minimise, monitor, and control the likelihood or impact of unfavourable events.

In the context of HR departments, cybersecurity should be given extra attention for several reasons.

Firstly, HR departments often handle sensitive personal and financial data, which can be a prime target for cybercriminals. A data breach can lead to severe legal and financial repercussions.

Secondly, HR departments are responsible for hiring and onboarding employees, which often involves using digital tools and platforms. If these systems are not adequately secured, they could be exploited by malicious actors.

Additionally, HR departments are also responsible for ensuring employees are adequately trained in cybersecurity practices, further underscoring the importance of cybersecurity in this realm.

Cyber Threats Facing the HR Department

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks pose a significant threat to the HR department as they are often the initial entry point for cybercriminals.

These attacks typically involve sending deceptive emails that seem to come from a legitimate source, tricking employees into providing sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers.

As HR often handles confidential employee data, falling victim to such scams can lead to severe data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.

Moreover, HR personnel are frequently targeted due to their access to valuable information and frequent communication with unknown external entities. For instance, a scam email might appear from a job applicant or organisation.

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files belonging to the victim, demanding a ransom for their release. This cyber-attack can cause significant disruptions in HR operations if essential files such as employee records, payroll data, or recruitment materials are encrypted.

Moreover, paying the ransom provides no guarantee that the files will be decrypted and encourages further criminal activity.

The consequences of a ransomware attack on an HR department extend beyond financial loss and operational disruption. It can also result in employees and potential recruits losing trust if they perceive that their personal information is not adequately protected.

Data Breaches

Data breaches occur when unauthorised individuals gain access to confidential data, often through sophisticated hacking techniques.

Since HR departments handle sensitive employee data, including personal identifiers, bank account details, and health information, they are a prime target for these attacks.

The consequences of a data breach can be devastating, including financial penalties for non-compliance with data protection regulations, reputational damage, and loss of employee trust.

The Impact of Cyber Threats on HR

Financial Loss Due to Cyber Threats

Financial loss can occur in numerous ways.

Firstly, if a cyber-attack results in data theft, the cost of recovering or replacing the lost data can be astronomical. Additionally, cyber-attacks often result in system downtime, leading to lost productivity and revenue.

For the HR department, any breach in the payroll system can lead to financial irregularities, which can be a nightmare to rectify.

For instance, the company might have to hire cybersecurity experts to investigate the breach, fix the vulnerabilities, and ensure that such a breach doesn't occur in the future.

This, coupled with potential fines and lawsuits in case of data breaches, can prove to be a costly affair.

Reputation Damage from Cyber Threats

In today's data-driven world, customers and employees entrust companies with their personal and financial information.

If a data breach occurs, it can significantly erode the trust of stakeholders. This can lead to loss of customers, difficulty in attracting new ones, and even challenges in retaining employees.

For HR departments, maintaining the trust of employees is crucial. Any hint of personal data being mishandled or compromised can lead to a poor work environment. Employees may question the company's ability to protect their data, creating mistrust and apprehension.

Legal Issues Stemming from Cyber Threats

Cyber threats can also lead to a myriad of legal issues. In many countries, including Malaysia, companies are legally obligated to protect personal data and notify stakeholders in the event of a data breach.

Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines and legal proceedings. Additionally, the company could face lawsuits if a data breach results in identity theft or financial loss for employees or customers.

For HR departments, the legal implications of a data breach can be particularly severe. They handle sensitive employee data, and any breach could violate various labour and employment laws.

Disruption to HR Processes Due to Cyber Threats

Finally, if a cyber-attack compromises the HR systems, it can disrupt several key processes like recruitment, payroll, benefits administration, performance management, and more.

The disruption can cause delays, errors, and inconsistencies, impacting the overall efficiency of the HR department.

Moreover, the time and resources required to recover from a cyber-attack can further hamper HR operations.

Strategies for Enhancing Cybersecurity in HR

Implementing Strong Password Policies

Passwords are the first line of defence in any cybersecurity strategy.

Human Resource departments deal with a high volume of sensitive data, making them a prime target for cyberattacks. Therefore, enforcing strong password policies is critical.

These policies should require all employees to use unique, complex passwords that are regularly updated.

Moreover, they should understand the risks associated with password sharing or using easy-to-guess passwords. Password management tools can also be encouraged to ensure employees do not resort to writing down passwords or reusing them across multiple platforms.

Regular Employee Training and Awareness Programs

Many cyberattacks occur due to human error or lack of awareness about potential threats.

Regular cybersecurity training and education programs can help reduce this risk significantly. These programs should teach employees about different types of cyber threats, how to identify them, and the steps to take when a threat is identified.

Specifically for HR, these programs should include training on securely handling sensitive personal data, often a target in cyberattacks.

Regular updates on new threats and protection measures can also help maintain a high level of cybersecurity awareness.

Encouraging Safe Online Behavior

Safe online behaviour means avoiding suspicious emails or links, not sharing sensitive information online, and using secure networks for work-related activities.

HR can set an example by employing safe practices in their daily operations and promoting these behaviours throughout the organisation.

This can be done through regular communications, reminders, and providing resources to help employees understand and adopt these behaviours.

Utilising Advanced Security Tools

HR departments should consider investing in advanced security tools like firewalls, antivirus software, and encrypted communication platforms. These tools can provide additional protection and help detect and prevent cyberattacks.

In addition, regular system audits and vulnerability assessments can help identify potential weak points and fix them before they can be exploited. Keep these tools updated and review their effectiveness regularly to ensure they provide the best protection.

Developing a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Policy

A comprehensive cybersecurity policy is essential in setting the standard for cybersecurity practices within the organisation.

This policy should clearly outline the responsibilities of each employee, the procedures for handling sensitive data, and the steps to be taken in case of a cybersecurity incident.

HR, in particular, can play a significant role in developing and enforcing this policy. They should ensure that it's updated regularly in response to evolving cyber threats and that all employees are aware of and understand the policy.

Better HR Management with Upscale

At Upscale, we understand that HR departments may not have time to focus on the finer details of cybersecurity. This is especially the case for managing talents, which extends to their data, which requires extra attention.

Our talent management team can help manage your talent and hiring needs while keeping their data secure.

Contact us today at upscale.my to get started.