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Definition

threat ignorance

Contributor(s): Laura Fitzgibbons

Threat ignorance is a concept used by security professionals to determine the level of vulnerability a company or user’s computer or system has to an attack. The idea of threat ignorance stems from a lack of understanding about how to take basic security precautions on the part of a user. Additionally, some common types of cyberattacks prey on users with high levels of threat ignorance.

Attacks that can be prevented if a user understands viruses and malware include:

  • Credential theft: Often users with high threat ignorance use passwords that are too easy to guess or use the same password for every account. Once this password is identified, the entire system and any data that person has access to can be compromised.
  • Phishing and spear phishing attacks: This is an attempt to access an individual’s personal information by tricking them into allowing malware onto their device. Since these attacks are disguised, users that do not know how to identify them are at risk.
  • Email spoofing attacks: This is when emails are sent with fake email addresses made to look like it is from a known person. A more specific example of this is CEO fraud, when an attacker impersonates an important member of an organization to gain the trust of an unsuspecting user.
  • Denial-of-service attacks: Attackers prevent legitimate users from accessing resources with these attacks, making it hard for users with high threat ignorance to regain control over the system.
  • Automatic update attacks: This type of attack takes advantage of the automatic update functions to push spam to the device. Since most device or software updates are unsuspecting, this makes it easy to infect an unaware user.

Individuals can arm themselves against security threats by staying on top the latest attacks and practicing good security habits. Organizations have safer systems when each user considers themselves an active participant in maintaining the company's security. Most organizations have security protocols, but many do not frequently train employees in these protocols or strongly enforce them.

Best practices to minimize threat ignorance

While most users or organizations will possess some level of threat ignorance, the goal is to make it as minimal as possible. Ways to accomplish this include:

  • Train staff to be able to detect common security threats.
  • Educate employees to stay on top of updates and maintain proper anti-virus and anti-malware programs.
  • Dedicate a single employee or team to handle security for the organization.
  • Stay updated on risk analyses.
  • Enforce password rules, like complexity, confidentiality and routine changes.
  • Require that devices are password protected or use two-factor authentication (2FA).
  • Classify the levels of protection for different sets of resources and create appropriate security protocols for each level.
  • Follow up after security trainings to check employee comprehension.
This was last updated in May 2019

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