Human Error is Often Significant Factor in Data Loss

By VaultTek | November 29, 2022

Ransomware, malware, hacking, and cyberattacks are often the first things that come to mind when listing today’s top data security and cyber security concerns. The reality is that human errors are often significant factors in data loss occurrences.

Human Error Accounts for More than Half of Data Security Breaches

According to a study from The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), human error accounts for 52 percent of the root causes of security breaches.[1]

Everyone makes mistakes, but some can be detrimental and result in the unintentional deletion of data files or worse. Sometimes, without even knowing it, employees overwrite important records or delete essential files and information. Human error can also play a role in other causes of data loss, including hard drive damage, liquid spills, software corruption and hard drive formatting.

Data loss can also be caused by indirect human error, for example failing to update software or apply software patches from verified publishers. Out-of-date software is vulnerable to compromise, and ransomware attackers often target out-of-date operating systems or internet-facing services.

Even on the best secured systems, human error can still cause major issues. Cyber criminals don’t have to employ sophisticated hacking techniques to pick up the phone or send an email to someone who works at the company to find a vulnerability. Phishing and other types of cyber schemes are devastatingly effective and routinely result in data loss.

Data Loss Due to Human Error Happens All the Time

One of the most famous data loss incidents involves the almost complete deletion of Pixar’s Toy Story 2 in 1998.[2] An incorrect command began removing every file below the main root directory level. That mistake meant that almost 90 percent of the movie was erroneously deleted off the company’s servers, erasing two months and hundreds of hours worth of work.

What made it worse was the backup system in place didn’t work properly because there was a limitation on the disk size. Most of the movie would have been lost for good except the movie’s Supervising Technical Director was working from home and had a copy on her local workstation.

In a more recent example of major data loss due to human error, a developer at the collaborative software development platform GitLab accidentally deleted a primary database under the mistaken belief that it was a secondary database.[3]

This coincided at the same time developers were attempting to replicate the primary database to a secondary location, so a huge amount of data was lost. You would think a software development platform would have a robust backup system, and they did, however it failed just when it was needed most.

Normally, in an event like this it should be relatively simple and take little to no time to restore data from a recent backup. Unfortunately, some part of each step in GitLab’s proactive procedures failed and the process was broken. Because the data had already been wiped from both the primary and secondary databases, they could not restore from either.

There are many such stories, and a common thread joins them: even the best protection plans sometimes fail and human errors compound the problem to create data loss chaos.

Proactive Data Protection Can Reduce Data Loss Due to Human Error

It is possible to reduce the threat of data loss due to human error through proper training, proactive protocols, and implemented safeguards. However, even these measures cannot eliminate the risk, which is one of the reasons proactive data security and protection is so important.

According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only half of the companies they surveyed believe they have a comprehensive data security policy in place. Plus, more than half surveyed said greater interconnectivity such as cloud computing and mobile technology has created new data security concerns that many legacy security systems are not sufficient.[4]

Human error can’t be predicted or eliminated. Having a data protection strategy that utilizes multiple layers of protection just makes sense and can protect against catastrophic data loss.  A secure backup solution that is automated, monitored and provides triple-redundancy can offer the greatest protection against the threats facing your business records.

Empowering Humans for Better Data Defense

Training and proactive disaster preparedness and data protection planning are good places to start. Employees need to understand how data is handled within your company; the policies and expectations for data and records management; and how backup and recovery systems function when needed.

Updating and educating employees on the latest cyber threats and procedures for how to report suspicious activity and errors when they occur will expedite recovery and empower your team to be proactive and vigilant.

An optimized data protection strategy and security workflow will also leave little room for human error to have lasting negative impact and make mistakes easier to spot. By utilizing a data protection solution that combines the benefits of secure automated processes, redundant data storage and proactive daily monitoring services, the risk of data loss due to human error can be significantly reduced.

VaultTek provides vault-tight security for your most valuable assets – your records. We offer the highest standard of protection, security, and recovery so you have the utmost confidence that your data will be there when you need it. We place a high value on being personally involved in your data protection so when disaster strikes, recovery begins quickly with assistance from a dedicated expert to guide you through the process.