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October 20, 2023

What Is Human Risk Management? Why Should Cybersecurity Pros Care?

If you’ve ever heard “Risk Management” and immediately thought “here comes the jargon,” you’re not wrong. There are so many buzzwords floating around about this topic… but no matter how the term is labeled, many of these frameworks all have one thing in common: they paint employees as your company’s weakest link. They operate on the assumption that you need risk management because your team itself is the reason you have risks.

There’s a new approach to risk management, one where the humans behind your organization aren’t villainized as the problem. Instead, they’re empowered to detect and report threats and become advocates for your security.

It’s a little something called human risk management— and it’s revolutionizing cybersecurity as we once knew it.

What Is Human Risk Management (HRM) in Cybersecurity?

Human Risk Management (HRM) is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks associated with human behavior in relation to an employee's use of technology.

Risk management is just like it sounds: managing your businesses’ risks. It’s all about understanding and naming your potential threats, then anticipating and preparing for them. 

You may have heard of risk management as a broad term applied to business, or pushed for human resources (HR). HR risk management focuses on risks employees may pose, often specifically around recruiting, on and offboarding, compliance and a few other focuses. 

Those within the cybersecurity industry have caught onto the benefits of this employee risk management. After all, more than 80% of breaches are caused by human error, action or inaction, and security tools and software can’t do it all to protect your organization. 

Because people are often the ones manipulated to get a foothold into your network, better managing the humans behind your brand is really one of the highest-impact ways to increase your cybersecurity.

Human risk management (HRM) calls for a change in the narrative that portrays your employees as your biggest security threat. It asks you to instead view your team as your biggest strength— and to believe that with the right awareness training and support, they can champion your security.

There are a few key ways to approach your risks within your team. Explore them in our whitepaper on Human Risk Management

Why it’s Important for Your Company to Manage Human Cyber Risk

It’s time to challenge the idea that human risk is only something HR should be responsible for. Your security team should be educating and empowering your employees too— and here’s why.

1. HRM mitigates human risk and creates human allies.

Perhaps the most important reason to adopt a human risk management mindset is that it’s the only way to proactively reduce risks while creating long-term behavioral changes.

When your cybersecurity team provides your employees with engaging, educational security awareness training and rewards them for their progress instead of nagging them, critical cultural changes occur. Suddenly your team feels like they play an important role in your security and how to contribute. They see appreciation for their impact in protecting it and want to play a part. Over time, this creates an astounding cultural shift.

2. HRM integrates your tools so everything is working together in one platform.

For so long we’ve conditioned our cybersecurity team to protect us by throwing multiple layers of technology at the problem. And can you blame them when all the new tool and software providers sell their product as the holy grail of solutions? It’s easy to find your cybersecurity team paying for a handful of subscriptions, many of which aren’t working together.

“With too many disparate tools and siloed data, it’s difficult to correlate trends, identify gaps, and improve the overall security posture,” we point out in our ebook. With proper human risk management, you can integrate, upgrade and replace solutions to cut software costs and improve efficiency.

3. HRM leverages time-saving automation.

Cybersecurity professionals can juggle a lot on their plates, multi-tasking and being pulled in many directions (especially saddled with the additional challenge of maintaining cybersecurity hygiene when employees work remotely). Security awareness program owners (SAPOs) in particular are tasked with the big responsibility of creating, promoting and measuring monthly awareness campaigns and often don’t have time to do everything. 

By looking for ways to automate processes using human risk management, you make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed even when your security team has their hands full. For instance, by incorporating automation into your training, you can trigger automatic training to be sent at exactly when your employees need it most: when they fall for a simulated phishing attempt. And this is just one example. HRM can reveal more ways automation can better protect your org all while saving your security team valuable time to support your team.

4. HRM empowers you with data.

One of the biggest complaints in the cybersecurity world is proving the ROI of their efforts. With the right human risk management, you’ll empower your team with the right tools they need to track security awareness training performance and other critical metrics.

By determining the right KPIs to track and assigning value to your employees’ efforts to support your cybersecurity, security teams have the proof they need to get buy-in from the big execs for improving their program in the future.

Key Elements of a Comprehensive Human Risk Management Approach

As threats facing today's cybersecurity landscape continue to evolve, managing human behavior remains one of your biggest risks - but also one of your biggest defenses. 

The Unify Insights platform provides a comprehensive approach to human risk management, enabling organizations like yours to effectively assess and manage the risks associated with employee behavior. Unify Insights brings together data from across an organization's security technology stack, allowing security teams to gain a unified view of employee risk and make informed decisions based on data.

Human Risk Index (HRI) Scoring: 

Unify Insights assigns a risk score to each employee, based on their individual risk factors. This allows security teams to quickly identify the riskiest employees and focus their efforts on those who are most likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Targeted Employee Training:

Time is valuable - don't waste your employee hours on security awareness training courses and tests that aren't applicable to them. Unify Insights provides targeted training recommendations for employees based on their individual risk factors. This ensures that employees are receiving the training they need to address their specific areas of weakness.

Easily Report Business Results: 

Unify provides a centralized view of risky behaviors, prioritizes remediation efforts, and quantifies the impact of your interventions—all on a single pane of glass. Moreover, Unify Insights eliminates the tedious task of manually collating data from varying cybersecurity tools, enabling you to readily report results and demonstrate the ROI of your security initiatives to senior management and other key stakeholders. By demonstrating the effectiveness of your human risk mitigation strategies, you can gather continued support and secure the resources needed to maintain a robust security program!

Getting Started with Human Risk Management

Does HRM sound like something worth exploring? Begin developing a management plan by downloading our whitepaper: Human Risk Management: Moving from Activities-Based to Outcomes-Based Cybersecurity Training.

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