Overlooking These 4 Critical Measures Expose Your Company to Cyber Attacks


The opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Here’s a sobering truth: 95% of cyber attacks are due to human error. The more employees you have, the greater your risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. We all envision legions of hackers trying to break through our firewalls, and yes, occasionally some make it. But the much more common truth is that unsuspecting employees inadvertently grant these cybercriminals access to corporate systems and data, or are influenced by these hackers to perform questionable (or even illegal) actions.

Worse still are the deliberate fraudulent acts of the people sitting between the keyboard and the chair. Some employees try to cheat the system themselves by changing amounts, bank details or other data in order to improve their personal financial situation. Then there are other outsiders up to mischief, such as when a supplier or partner sends the company forged or altered documents, such as supplier invoices with forged bank account details or incorrect amounts.

None of these incidents constitute an indictment of company leaders, security practices, or good judgment. They merely emphasize that technology alone cannot stop every cyberattack. The key to maximizing protection and minimizing exposure to these attacks lies in combining technology with the human touch.

Related: Cybercrime Will Cost the World $8 Trillion This Year – Your Money is at Risk Here’s why prioritizing cybersecurity is critical to risk mitigation.

1. Secure data begins and ends with people

Many cyberattacks succeed due to simple but avoidable human error or an incorrect response to a scam. For example, an employee might reveal usernames and passwords after clicking a link in a phishing email. You could open an email attachment that unknowingly installs ransomware or other equally destructive malware on the corporate network. Or they just choose easy-to-guess passwords. These are just a few examples that can allow cyber thieves to attack.

To minimize risks related to human error, consider implementing the following measures to ensure your business remains well protected.

  • Strengthen employee awareness and training: Arrange regular training on cybersecurity best practices, recognizing phishing emails, avoiding social engineering attacks and understanding the importance of secure computing. In 2022 approx 10% of cyberattack attempts have been foiled because employees have reported them, but they can only report such attempts if they recognize them.
  • Build a culture of safety: Ensure everyone in their role is actively protecting company assets by encouraging open communication about security issues, recognizing employees who demonstrate sound security practices, and including security in performance reviews.
  • Employ stricter access controls: Access controls limit who can see or change sensitive company data and systems. By applying the “principle of least privilege” to access controls and educating employees about the risks of account sharing, unauthorized access and data leakage can be limited.
  • Use password managers: Strong passwords are hard to crack, but hard to remember. Password manager software can create and store hard-to-guess passwords without requiring users to “write them down.”
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA provides an extra layer of security by requiring an additional verification method—such as a fingerprint or one-time passcode—in the event an attacker steals an employee’s password.
  • Implement fraud detection processes for incoming documents: These processes try to detect fraudulent documents (e.g. fake invoices) as they are received before they can be processed.

2. Reduce the risk of cyberattacks and fraud through technology and automation

While the success of most cyberattacks stems from a lack of awareness, training, detection, and processes, you still need technical barriers to keep determined hackers out of your systems. Finance and accounting offices are top targets for cyberattacks and fraudsters, so Accounts Payable (AP) systems are a prime target if they do break in.

As a matter of fact, 74% of companies Have experienced attempted or actual payment fraud. Accounts payable fraud exploits accounts payable systems and associated data and documents to commit mischief such as:

  • Creating fake supplier accounts and fake invoices for them.
  • Change of payment amounts, bank details or data on valid invoices.
  • Cheque Manipulation.
  • making fraudulent reimbursements.

Related topics: What is phishing? How to protect yourself from attacks.

3. Keep the bad guys out

Of course, you want your IT department to use technology to prevent unauthorized attempts to access the network and systems in the first place. In addition to the venerable firewall, trustworthy systems also include:

  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS) monitors network traffic for malicious activity or policy violations and can automatically take action to block or report such activity.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays an important role in cyber security by using machine learning algorithms to analyze data sets, recognize patterns and make predictions about potential threats. It can identify attack vectors and respond quickly and efficiently to cyber threats that humans cannot counter.
  • data encryption ensures only authorized parties with the right decryption key can access a file’s contents, protecting sensitive data at rest (stored on devices) and in transit (across networks).

4. Protection against fraud from within

Whether it’s a cybercriminal overcoming all of these hurdles or a rogue employee out to commit AP fraud, various types of automation can detect the cyberattack and prevent it from being successful.

  • Automated monitoring of employee activities: The can help detect suspicious behavior and potential security risks. The software tracks user activity, analyzes logs for signs of unauthorized access, and regularly checks user access rights. Of course, employees should know they are being monitored and to what extent.
  • Automate the payment process end-to-end on a single platform: It eliminates human error (and human scruples) unless there is an exception. Encrypted receipt/receipt of electronic invoices from suppliers, automated reconciliation of invoices with purchase orders, and electronic payments—all without human intervention—are examples of how automation eliminates the opportunity (and temptation) for accounts payable fraud.
  • Document-level change detection takes this protection a step further: This automated technology can detect when a sneaky cyber thief with access to the underlying systems is attempting to access, modify, or delete unauthorized sensitive documents, including purchase orders, invoices, and payment authorizations. These tools alert administrators and provide detailed audit trails of document activity that help identify and prevent accounts payable fraud, whether it comes from outside or inside.
  • Detection of unusual data patterns: Advise the accounts payable staff to do one more check before the invoice is processed and paid. Using machine learning and AI, automated systems can compare data with historical data and flag suspicious changes in bank details, the provider’s legal name and address, and unusual payment amounts.

Related Topics: How AI and Machine Learning Improve Fraud Detection in Fintech

It is almost impossible to fully protect yourself from cyber theft and AP scams, especially when most of the vulnerabilities and culprits are human. You need to focus your security efforts on the perfect balance between cutting-edge technology and the people between the keyboard and the chair. Adequate and continuous training can reduce the human error that enables cyberattacks to succeed. And technology and automation can help prevent attacks from reaching people in the first place. But the right combination of both is the key to combating potential scammers.

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