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The Human Firewall: Combat Enemies, By Improving Your Security-Oriented Culture

In cybersecurity, tech dams alone are not enough to defend against the ever-evolving landscape of threats. We all agree that firewalls, WAFs, SIEMs, and other relative software are essential layers of protection.

But there is another crucial line of defense that often goes overlooked. The “human firewall” 

With their technical potential and excellent decision-making capabilities, humans play a crucial role in safeguarding an organization from threats.

In this chapter, we dive into the concept of the human firewall. We explore ways to grow a security-oriented culture that effectively combats threats.

Understanding The “Human Firewall”

What do I mean by the term “human firewall”? I am referring to the collective awareness and security knowledge of an organization. It is a defense made from granite. A defense is formed when every individual actively participates in the defense strategy. 

We create defense when everyone understands that the weakest link can wreak havoc in an otherwise perfect creation. From the CEO to the newest intern, all are equally essential parts of the firewall.

Recognizing External Threats

External threats are the threats most of us are familiar with. An external entity to the company wants to attack it, and the motives can vary. They can use various tools, tactics, and techniques to reach their goals.

Those can be vulnerabilities in their application, open source intelligence, phishing, etc. Such actions can lead to data breaches, intellectual property theft, financial losses, or reputational damage. 

Building a human firewall against external threats will make employees more vigilant.

Recognizing Insider Threats

Insider threats come in various forms, like “pissed” employees, unintentional errors, or manipulated staff. 

As with external threats, they can lead to similar classes of damage.

Building a human firewall requires acknowledging that insiders have the potential to be vectors for security breaches and understanding that proactive measures are necessary. 

The problem with insider threats is that there is a thin line between being cautious and not trusting your people.

Empowering Employees Through Education

A security-aware culture begins with education. Employees should receive comprehensive security training. That should include best practices for handling sensitive data, recognizing phishing attempts, and adhering to security policies. 

Empower them with the knowledge to identify suspicious activities and the confidence to report potential threats promptly.

Of course, attending videos made no one an expert. To be an expert, you must apply your knowledge daily and ensure you retain it.

Promoting Open Communication

A flourishing human firewall relies on a culture of open communication. Employees should feel comfortable reporting security concerns or incidents without fear of disciplinary action.

Engaging Leadership

Leadership sets the tone for the organization’s culture, including its approach to cybersecurity.

Leaders should participate in security training and be leaders by example.

For instance, because you are a CEO, this doesn’t mean you are allowed to escape MFA.

Conducting Regular Security Drills

Reinforce security awareness through regular security drills and simulations.

Conducting mock phishing exercises, incident response scenarios, and social engineering tests can help keep employees alert and prepared to tackle real-world threats.

Rewarding and Recognizing Secure Behavior

Positive reinforcement goes a long way in strengthening the human firewall. 

Ensure you reward employees who consistently demonstrate security-aware behavior and contribute to maintaining a safe digital environment.

Public recognition for security-conscious employees can motivate others to follow them.


Companies should understand that whatever their security tooling budget is, a lack of proper security culture can take you down fast. So, invest in your culture and awareness

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