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The Inescapable Nature of Human Error and Its Implications in Cybersecurity

May 2024 by Patrick Houyoux LL.M. ULB, Brussels, Trinity College, Cambridge, UK. President – Director PT SYDECO

To err is human; one could even say it is a defining characteristic of humanity. Who has never made a mistake, whether out of distraction, ignorance, or because it was provoked?

No one is immune to making mistakes, and most of the time, they are forgivable, even if their consequences can be very damaging.

However, the fundamental, unforgivable error is doing nothing to avoid situations that lead to mistakes.

Thus, to minimize errors due to distraction, one should avoid multitasking (for example, a surgeon operating should not be distracted by a nurse recounting her latest adventures) and refrain from performing actions mechanically. As for errors committed out of ignorance, it is best to educate oneself before making a decision (in matters of justice, this problem is addressed by the maxim that no one can ignore the law). In the case of an error intentionally provoked by a third party, the best advice is to always think before acting and leave the "I act, then I think" approach to politicians.

No activity involving humans is immune to the consequences of the errors they might make.

This is especially true in the field of cybersecurity.

However, one must not confuse the error with its consequences, as I recently read in an article by Arnaud De Backer, who writes that "In the field of cybersecurity, human error refers to security breaches and data leaks that result from human actions and decisions."

All cybersecurity professionals will tell you that humans are the weak link in cybersecurity because they are not immune to making mistakes, regardless of their level of education or preparation: Zero risk does not exist.

Of course, we should not reject everything the specialized literature tells us about internet user education, but we must ask ourselves if we are fighting the wrong battle by striving at all costs to prevent human error rather than focusing on limiting its consequences.

It is based on these reflections that PT SYDECO created its ARCHANGEL© 2.0 INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEM, which aims not only to protect industrial or information systems from direct and indirect cyberattacks but also to prevent human error from having the same negative effects on the system, or at least to minimize its consequences as much as possible.

ARCHANGEL© 2.0, a next-generation firewall, was designed by integrating the ZERO TRUST rule into its protection and detection system. By creating micro-segmentation within the protected network, it limits the effects that an internal intrusion could have on the entire network.

In conclusion

While compliance with security policies set by organizations and the education of those who work there are necessary, they are insufficient to ensure good protection of the organization’s computer system.

A security system designed in accordance with the fundamental laws of computer security, namely ZERO TRUST and MICRO-SEGMENTATION, like the one offered by ARCHANGEL© 2.0, is necessary and indispensable to protect against all types of cyberattacks, especially those resulting from human error.


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