What are the most common security mistakes?

During Cyber Security Awareness Month, our cyber security experts answered the most frequently searched questions on securing digital communications, working safely from home and eliminating the biggest cyber risks. In video and written format. 

Today (answered by Zivver Principle Strategy, Olivier Paling): What are the most common security mistakes?

Let's be honest; the most common cyber security mistakes have been the same ones for years. That's why we continue to insist on not using short passwords and - perhaps even worse - using the same short password for all your accounts. It simply remains the most common security mistake when it comes to securing data and communications.

4 most common cyber mistakes

  1. The use of short passwords
  2. Using the same passwords for multiple accounts
  3. Not using two-factor authentication (2FA)
  4. The use of public WiFi without proper security like a VPN

These mistakes are, of course, open doors, but perhaps less well known is that those mistakes can cause a data breach. It's not only hackers and criminals who cause data leaks, in most cases, data breaches are caused by people who had no bad intentions at all.

Are we actually the biggest 'cybercriminals' ourselves?

In fact, when we talk about data breaches, typically over 90% of the cases relate to human error. In 2019, more than 27,000 data leaks occurred in The Netherlands, the country with the best reporting culture in the world. The United Kingdom also makes it into the top 3, in the number of reported breaches.

So data breaches are often mistakes that you and I make ourselves, often without even realising it. But what are the human errors in this context? Think of situations where you sent the wrong attachment to someone, sent an email to the wrong 'Kate', or composed an email with improper use of bcc or cc. And finally, there is the loss of your phone or USB stick. Many of these incidents pertain to email.

And that's not surprising; on average many workers handle over 121 emails daily.

How to prevent data breaches

Luckily many organisations nowadays work with secure communication platforms that can warn users when a possible mistake takes place.

Secure communication platforms scan emails while they are being created and alerts users when they are about to share privacy-sensitive information in an unsafe manner, or share it with an unknown sender for whom the information may not have been intended.

After that warning, users can choose to send this information encrypted. In this way, the software helps to prevent costly data leaks.

Gartner calls these organisations an 'Email Data Protection Specialist'. So these are companies like Zivver that specialise in helping organisations to better protect their email data.

Download the 'Safeguard sensitive information while working from home' e-book, to prevent data breaches from happening. 

Cyber Security Awareness - Question and Answer (Q&A)

Curious about our other 'Cyber Security Awareness' Question & Answer articles? View all Cyber Security Awareness Q&A videos on our YouTube channel.


Written by

Kevin Lamers

Originally published on October 9, 2020

Last update on January 6, 2021