The Role of Employee Education in Business Network Security: The Human Firewall

Man and woman sitting in front of a computer screen in the office

Most businesses and IT directors worldwide recognize employee education’s role within network security as an imperative link within the business network security model. The human touch is crucial in upholding a ‘human firewall,’ enhancing a modern business’s overall cyber security level.

The term ‘human firewall’ surrounds the concept that both well-trained and vigilant employees can act as a link in the chain of defense against malicious cyber threats – alongside a robust network strategy. Combined, these two factors can create an iron curtain against potential and malicious threats to network security. 

Awareness and Understanding

Unfortunately, an enormous array of cyber threats that harm businesses, including phishing attacks, malware, social engineering, and possible ransomware, and employees often are the first line of defense against these items.

Malicious items often come via emails, links, and attachments, which require some diligence on the employee’s part to identify friends from foes. Frequent training, educational literature, and email testing can help ensure that employees are up to speed on the latest news, scams, and things to be aware of.

IT managers should delegate a certain amount of cybersecurity budgeting to educate their employees on how to identify a potential threat correctly and even flag things that are potentially an issue. 

Implementing and maintaining strong departmental and company-wide IT policies is another crucial part of a robust defensive strategy against employee-led cyber security.

These policies and business objectives must be widely known, understood, and accepted by all employees.

Items that fall into this category include personal use of work technical equipment, business data-handling policies, password maintenance, and updates for work equipment. 

Phishing Prevention Through Robust Training 

As touched upon earlier, phishing attacks are hugely prevalent within Canadian businesses and individuals. It is estimated that over 80% of Canadians have been impacted by successful malicious attacks.

However, in-depth and comprehensive training can assist companies in ensuring that their employees have the most up-to-date information to deal with malicious content.

Such training should cover identifying correct email addresses that correlate to the subject matter, unknown senders, attachments, and links, ‘clever phishing’ that appears contextually accurate at first glance, and requests for sensitive information such as login credentials, PINs, or passwords. 

Similarly, frequent password updates are essential, and employees across the web mustn’t use passwords for different purposes or sites. Again, this must be reinforced through a robust network security policy where staff are aware of expectations and follow these guidelines. 

On another note, employees should be aware of the great benefits of using strong, unique, and combination-based passwords to ensure that their passwords are not easily guessable by outside sources.

Alongside these strict password policies, it is similarly important for IT departments to use an MFA approach (multi-factor authentication). It is widely accepted that MFA greatly reduces the number of cyber attacks on businesses and individuals.

Endpoint Device and Network Security

In regard to the ‘human firewall,’ educating employees about the dangers of vulnerable wi-fi connections such as airports, cafes, and generally any other unsecured public spaces is imperative. Obviously, this usage is often necessary, but guidelines on how to use wi-fi effectively and safely. 

Endpoint/end-device security is another key point for the training and education of employees. Employees must keep every single work-issued device, including laptops and tablets, up to date with all anti-virus software and security patches. 

Safe Data Handling Practices

It might seem obvious, but IT departments must implement good data-handling practices and policies. There are expectations for all businesses to handle and safeguard their sensitive data in certain fashions. This is now also enforced legally, with companies facing tough fines and repercussions should they not be found to be compliant. 

The benefit of ensuring that employees follow ‘good data’ handling practices is two-fold: firstly, good practice reduces the chance of a data breach, leading to better client retention and trust in your business’s ability to avoid cyber attacks. 

Companies and businesses are now held accountable for reporting any data breaches, which depends on employees being truthful and open about any possible cyber attacks and reporting issues. Immediate reporting of any security incident ensures that the regulatory compliance guidelines are met and also reduces the impact on sensitive data. 

Continuous Training

As outlined earlier in the article, IT budgets must be requested and earmarked annually to ensure that security awareness training is not just a one-off. It is essential that staff are continuously trained on cyber security updates and that the training material itself is updated to reflect the ever-evolving landscape of malware. 

Another critical factor is ensuring that when employees change roles, their cyber threat detection training is updated to reflect any additional network access requirements or responsibilities. 

Collectively fostering a company ethos and cultural shift towards the mindset that cyber security is everybody’s responsibility and role is critical in developing a robust ‘human shield.’ This ethos can only be created through continuous training, strong IT policies, and a proactive and hands-on approach to network security.


In summary, continuous staff training and coaching is a worthy and strategic investment for companies wishing to bolster the human element of cybersecurity network defense.

Constant focus and attention upon training will empower employees with the key knowledge and skillset to reinforce their resilience against a cyber attack or unauthorized access, protect business assets, and ultimately maintain the trust of all stakeholders.

The digital landscape is always developing, and employees must keep up. Learn more at Infinity Network Solutions.