Cyren Security Blog

Why is the security industry telling you that your users should protect themselves?

by Duncan Mills

I’m a technology marketer, and the annual RSA security event is an opportunity for me to understand what my peers and competitors are saying to customers and potential customers. My takeaway this year is that many in the industry appear to be telling customers to shift the burden of protection to the end-user.

As usual, my walk around the exhibit halls turned up a massive number of vendors whose booth messaging was completely incomprehensible. I’m sure you looked at many booths and still did not know what problem the vendor might solve for you. Others did far better, with straight-forward headlines stating what they do. Some used games to attract people, and some, magicians, including Cyren. We thought it a fun way to engage and our magician’s act was closely linked to our theme of “How do you know your security is working?”

You know your security is not working when you focus all your efforts on blaming users for successful attacks. Yes, user training does form part of a defence-in-depth strategy, but a small part, and it only works if you continuously reinforce it using professional training companies. Doing this right is not within everyone’s budget.

Yet there were an abundance of companies touting training, specifically to help detect email phishing threats. Is this really the user’s responsibility? We don’t expect them to delete their own spam or avoid clicking executable malware attachments, but we seem to have given up on technology’s ability to block phishing. And we actually get two attempts at doing so – when the email arrives over the email channel and when the user connects to the phishing site over the web channel. Surely at least one of either the email or the web security controls can protect the users.

Not only are these user-education companies telling us that users are the weak link, but some of the larger infosec companies are too, with booths decked in messaging suggesting that protection starts with people. I agree that we should be thinking about how users work, what they do and how it affects the security posture of the business, but does security really start with them? Should IT not be an enabler to help them be more productive and should security not just protect them invisibly? The answer is, of course, yes.

My advice is do not let your email security vendor get away with delivering phishing emails to your users – they should just block them. Do not let your web security vendor get away with allowing users to connect to phishing sites – they should just block the connections. Do you know whether they are or not? It is difficult to tell because your users might be giving away login credentials or other information and they may never realise. Cyren can help you understand if your security is working:

Try our Web Security Diagnostic

Find out more about Email Security Gap Analysis

Spend a few minutes to review our RSA presentation

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