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Cyberattacks and what you should know from an HR perspective

Every organisation that adopts technology to digitise its processes and operations are highly dependent on its systems functioning at the highest level of integrity. This is especially true when one considers the security of various information systems that span across an organisation. There is no doubt that organisations value their data. Data often serves as the building block for companies to operate efficiently and carry out their daily tasks, such as managing all aspects of human resources using human resource information systems. These systems are responsible for collect, process and store data on organisation employees – data such employee names, addresses, salaries, performance metrics just to mention a few. This data is especially meaningful for organisations who make data-driven decisions when performing HR analytics. So what are some of the factors that organisations should consider when managing their HR information systems to safeguard it from ill-intended cyberattacks?

Access control

While the architecture of an HR information system depends extensively on the software and hardware which make up the entirety of the system, human actors are responsible for interfacing with the system at some point. With this in mind, it is important to consider the degree to which certain employees have access to certain levels of the systems data and overall architecture. For example, a human resource manager might require higher system privileges to access really sensitive data compared to a human resource support agent who may need low level privileges to access basic information to assist employees with general queries. Likewise, a systems engineer often requires direct access to the source code of an HR information system in the event that maintenance or upgrades need to be performed. At each level of the system, vulnerabilities can occur which could result in a cyberattack if the correct access control parameters have not been in place based on the user privileges and requirements.

Software vulnerabilities  

While human error can be the cause of a cyberattack on a company’s HR information systems, the software meant to safeguard employee data may also be flawed which could allow for a data breach. It is imperative that cyber security analysts adopt best practice approaches in identifying reliable software tools that are well maintained and updated regularly. This is especially important when deciding to use third-party security tools given that the developers of these tools tend to release major improvements or patches to improve the underlying security of their software.

Employee training and development

Protecting the data of an HR information system is only a single point in an organisations entire technology stack. Any organisation that relies on an information system where knowledge management data or even payroll data are tightly woven into the entire system architecture through systems integration could fall victim to massive cybersecurity attacks. Training and development programmes could help mitigate such attacks. These programmes can be brief and lean in nature with the aim of simply creating awareness of common cyberattack tools which may include phishing and ransomware. The benefit of educating employees how to identify even the slightest potential threat could save an organisation a significant amount of financial resources compared to having a mishap have happened because an employee mistakenly installed a harmful piece of software that seemed secure. Phishing is a common yet sophisticated technique used in cyberattacks, it is often used to gather sensitive data such as emails, passwords and other credentials from users – while appearing as a reputable and legitimate source. That said, many phishing techniques can easily be identified since they share common characteristics such as requesting data from an organisation email that does not form part of the organisations domain. Training all levels of employees throughout the organisation to identify such common techniques are inexpensive and this can often be achieved through simple workshops and exercises.

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