benefitexpress April 10, 2020 9 min read

5 Ways HR Can Help Prevent a Security Breach—Especially Now

How HR can prevent a security breach 

Data breaches have become more common in recent years, with both mid-level organizations and major firms across all industries falling victim. These security breaches can lead to enormous liability—not to mention immense financial stress and reputational damage.

Right now, enterprise level organizations may be at a heightened risk for security breaches. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the nation's workforce is adjusting to remote work, which can present serious security concerns. For example, when an employee uses a personal device instead of a company-issued laptop, it likely isn't protected with updated security software. This not only increases the risk of telework mistakes, but also opens the door to virus-related phishing links and even hackers.

An organization's first line of defense? Its employees.

Fortunately, HR can be a helping force. While data security is typically a matter for the technology department, it has an impact on everyone—and HR professionals can play a crucial role in ensuring that effective programs are in place to protect sensitive information and minimize employer liability.

Here's how HR can prevent a security breach:

Know your employees

As mentioned, your first line of defense are employees—meaning anyone who will be handling PII (personally identifiable information) should be thoroughly vetted before being hired or granted access to such information. In addition to the human resources team, departments to carefully vet for can include payroll, accounting and benefits specialists, as well as outside vendors like your benefits administration provider (more below). 

Build a culture of compliance 

Without organizational commitment to security measures and other protocol, policies and procedures are merely documents. Thus, businesses should do all they can to foster a culture that encourages compliance at every level. In other words, the importance of compliance needs to come from the top down. Without the support of your most influential leaders, company-wide programs (including security measures), can easily be ignored by other staff. This will require clear communication between these leaders, human resources and the compliance program. Once your senior executives have set the stage, follow these tips to keep employees engaged with your security protocol. 

Train employees to spot issues

In order for employees to report a security issue, they need to know what one looks like. For example, phishing scams. 'Phishing' is a term used to describe an email that looks like it came from an internal team member, but is actually a cyber criminal attempting to break through your security measures. Employees may be quick to respond to such an email (especially if it came from a person of authority), divulging delicate information that could hurt the organization. Employees should be trained on how to identify scams via self-guided training modules or otherwise. They should also be familiar with what a legitimate company e-mail looks like, including company-wide signatures, a photo of the sender and a company e-mail address.

Keep documentation up-to-date

Should employees have questions or an update is issued, make sure the information is easily accessible to all. For example, company policy information is often times located in employee handbooks or other organizational resources. Having the info available to all employees may also prevent technology teams from being bogged down with questions or time spent putting out fires. Additionally, HR leaders should work with their information technology teams to ensure materials are up-to-date and readily available. 

Send frequent cybersecurity reminders

While many security measures are configured by information technology teams, the communication often comes from human resources leaders. Help ensure proper precaution is followed by sending out frequent communications surrounding cybersecurity. This keeps the information top-of-mind as employees wade through emails and other platforms where sensitive information may be targeted. To get started, below is a basic guide for employees to follow.

Cybersecurity tips for employees

  • Use strong passwords with multi-factor authentication when possible
  • Ensure your Wi-Fi connection is secure by using a secure connection (VPN)
  • Beware of social engineering and phishing—think before you click!
  • Think before you share sensitive information
  • Keep your devices secure and do not leave them unattended

Select benefits administration software with HITRUST certification

Digital healthcare is on the rise, making it more of a target to cyber-attacks. That said, not only is it important to have proper security precautions in place for your organization but to make sure your vendors and partners do as well. For example, Benefitexpress is proud to be a HITRUST certified benefits administration vendor—a certification frequently required by organizations that handle Protected Health Information, and has become the gold standard for compliance framework in the healthcare industry. Working with HITRUST certified vendors is an added framework to HIPAA, and ensures that your employee's sensitive healthcare information is protected.  

Plan for atypical working environments

In the event most of your workforce is out of the office or working off-site, do your security measures have the same level of integrity? Take the current COVID-19 crisis, for example. Many companies, including enterprise level organizations, are working remotely. However, remote work can create additional cybersecurity threats, and organizations should have a plan in place around protecting data when staff are working outside of their normal office environment—and, as mentioned above, this communication often comes from human resources leaders. Whether you already have crisis measures in place, or your efforts need some fine-tuning, now is an opportune time to revisit your plan for current or future changes to your work environment.

As an HR leader, your guidance is important to every team member and department. By regularly communicating the security measures your company has in place (and how to avoid a breach), you're creating a culture of compliance that will keep both employee and company information safe.

During this time of global uncertainty, we are committed to helping you plan, prepare and respond to the quickly evolving climate of COVID-19. If you're ready to enhance your employee and benefits experience, plus work with a partner who will protect your data, download our product sheet and consider benefitexpress!