THE HUMAN FIREWALL
The aim of modern on-demand government is to build
effective efcient and economic public administration
system and to increase client satisfaction. This is
why electronic governmental services, identication
and authentication processes have been developed
continuously in the past few years in Hungary. The
improvement programs on digital state building
supported this goal as well. We cannot lose sight of
the fact that during digitalisation programs, in order to
build an open, safe and secure digital state, we must
consider the cybersecurity aspect a priority.
Network-based information systems play a vital role in
the daily lives of societies. The modernization of public
administration and the process of digitization contribute
to the transfer of ofcial administration tasks from ofce
buildings to citizens’ homes and personal smart devices.
Therefore the reliable operation and security of these
systems are essential. At the same time, the frequency
and impact of attacks that threaten the secure operation
of information systems are increasing.
According to the RiskBased Data Breach QuickView
Report 2019 Q3, at the end of September, there
THE HUMAN FIREWALL - THE HUMAN SIDE
OF CYBER SECURITY
By Annamária Beláz, Doctoral School on Safety and Security Sciences, Óbuda University, Budapest,
and Zsolt Szabó, Doctoral School on Safety and Security Sciences, Óbuda University, Budapest,
Cyber criminals are keen to exploit vulnerabilities in various software programs to gain access to users’ computers and
accounts and steal important data, such as credit card information. An important change in the case of digital data theft,
compared to paper-based data management, is that in many cases, we do not even notice when something has gone
missing. No need to go far back in time, just a few days ago, hackers had access to the Facebook prole of nearly 50 million
customers, not just data, but were able to do what they wanted with the Facebook proles, for example. They were also able
to access other systems that the victim logged into with their Facebook prole. A little earlier, the credit card details of 380,000
customers who bought tickets on British Airways’ website got into the wrong hands. In 2016, Tesco Bank (UK) lost the money
of its 20,000 customers, also due to IT errors. And these are just some of the many events that are well known. Attacks are
usually made with the use of automated methods that search for common bugs. These are the attacks you can and should
defend against. It is essential to know what the potential faults of the IT system are and what you can do to prevent them.
The purpose of the study is to analyze the role of humans in the information security of the digital state and society.
Information security; IT security; human rewall; public administration; digital state and social content.
were 5,183 breaches, exposing 7.9 billion records.
Compared to the 2018 Q3 report, the total number of
breaches was up 33.3 percent and the total number of
records exposed more than doubled, up 112 percent .
A signicant percentage of the leaked records are from
or connected to public sector databases.
Alongside illegal data mining, other types of
information security incidents are common to the
public, such as denial of service attacks (DOS/
DDOS), defacement, malware, phishing, spam, and
Based on the Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the
European Parliament and the Council (of 6 July 2016)
concerning measures for a high common level of the
security of network and information systems across
the Union (NIS Directive), the information system of
the on-demand state public administration, the data
produced, stored and transmitted by it, and the security
of the persons and organizations using the system,
must obtain the minimum capabilities necessary to
provide an adequate level of protection.
In order to achieve the required level of protection,
it is necessary that information security rules, as well
as the principles and solutions of risk assessment and
management related to the eld, form an integral part
of the development programs. The following sections
briey discuss the risk factors and the underlying
concepts and principles.
TECHNOLOGICAL FACTOR: FIREWALLS AND
Nowadays, more and more devices can connect to the
Internet, from tness bracelets to smart washing ma-
chines to sophisticated industrial systems. While they
make our lives easier and more comfortable, they are
another attractive target for cybercriminals.
In 2017, various Internet-enabled devices, such as
the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet
of Things (IP), will become a signicant risk factor for
targeted attacks. Cybercrime targets vulnerabilities and
unsafe systems and seeks to disrupt business processes
– as was the case this year with Mirai malware.
Mobile devices are increasingly used in production
and industrial control systems. In addition
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
2CYBER SECURITY REVIEW online, September 2020
to the signicant number of vulnerabilities in systems,
this trend may expose organizations to additional
threats. Cybercriminals are constantly improving their
methods to circumvent the highest levels of protection
and exploit the vulnerabilities of the latest technologies.
According to Trend Micro’s 2017 forecast, a growing
number of nancial professionals will try to ransack the
key to the company’s cash box with fraudulent emails,
and no Internet-connected device can be safe from
In addition, cyber-propaganda and vulnerabilities
are expected to continue to grow, in line with previous
trends. Also, almost every day, new attack methods
emerge and threaten organizations, newer tactics are
deployed, and more devices are attacked. According
to experts, another risk is misinformation: with 46% of
the world’s population having an Internet connection,
cyber-propaganda will increase with the appointment
of new leaders in the world, potentially providing the
public with misinformation.
Thycotic has been surveyed by hackers at one of
the most signicant IT security events of the year at the
Black Hat 2017 conference in Las Vegas. According
to the research, traditional border security technologies
(rewalls, anti-virus software) are outdated, and
sensitive data is most easily accessed through
privileged (administrative) accounts.
According to a survey of 250 hackers, the easiest
way to access company condential information is
Figure 1. Firewall.
through administrative accounts (32%), followed by
email accounts (27%) and endpoints (21%). 73% of
participants say that traditional border protection tools
such as anti-virus software and rewalls are outdated
and easily circumvented.
According to those surveyed, cybercriminals’ activities
are mostly hampered by multifactor identication and
encryption, and the most ineffective are intrusion
prevention systems (IPS). 85% of hackers say human
error is behind data loss. The reason for this is that
there is increasing pressure on users, who eventually
become tired of complying with security rules.
35% of average users said that keeping their
passwords in mind and changing them is the biggest
concern, but too much information (30%), ongoing
updates to protect (21%), and constant cyber threats
(15%) are also a problem.
HUMAN FACTOR: EMPLOYEE AS THE WEAK
Information leaks are events that make information
available to otherwise unauthorized parties by creating
an opportunity for accidental or intentional data access.
According to much international and domestic
research, the most common and costly damage
caused by data leakage is caused by employees, not
by external attackers:
“Companies can spend millions of dollars on
rewalls, encryption, and secure access devices, but
it’s a waste of money because none of the measures
address the weakest link in the security chain: it’s
the person who uses, administers, operates, and is
responsible for these systems” .
György Vasvári, one of the pioneers of Hungarian
information technology, and an active scientist
throughout his life, formulated important and up-to-date
ideas on one of the most pressing issues of information
technology (IT) security:
“(...) I can say that Internet users are very proud
that their system is protected by a rewall from various
hacker attacks. But the hackers and the terrorists,
are clever and turned to the weakest point, the user.
Therefore, state-of-the-art computing says that the
whole chain of people, employee security awareness,
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
is all about the human rewall - and besides the
technical rewall (Figure 1), we need to do the human
rewall (Figure 2)” .
Most employees do not feel responsible for
corporate IT security, and a quarter of large companies
do not have security policies in place. It was revealed,
among other things, by Cisco’s security research
conducted in 13 countries, interviewing more than
12,000 employees .
Cisco has conducted a survey in the Europe, Middle
East, Africa, and Russia (EMEAR) region, which shows
that large and small and medium-sized companies’ IT
security policies and resources are primarily protective
against external threats; however, threats within the
company receive little attention. The main ndings of
the research highlighted the following trends:
• 69% of respondents are unaware of major
vulnerabilities or threats (such as Heartbleed or the
• Respondents considered cybercrime the main risk
(60%), while user behavior was ranked second as
a risk factor. 58% of those surveyed know that their
company has an IT security policy, but 23% do not
know it at all.
• 44% of respondents show little or no compliance,
and every 14 people actively work around IT
• 31% of surveyed employees say that IT security
is a barrier to innovation and collaboration or
In the PwC 2019 survey, 9,500 respondents from
122 countries were interviewed. Simple business
e-mail abuse remains the biggest business impact, and
frontline employees continue to be the primary reason
for security incidents .
As can be seen from the above, employee behavior
and lack of awareness are the Achilles heel of
enterprise IT security, which is becoming a growing
risk factor. As companies isolate users from daily IT
threats, most expect their corporate security systems
to eliminate all potential risks.
User behavior should be considered. As part of
the research, Cisco identied four typical behavioral
patterns related to IT security. Although one hundred
percent security is never achieved, the following
behaviors make it possible to develop security
strategies that take into account different user behavior.
In each case, the level of threat is different, and
each user requires a different approach to minimize
risk to companies, while not limiting the freedom of
employees, allowing them to perform their day-to-day
tasks with optimal efciency. The four types of users
can be described as follows:
• Conscious: is aware of security threats and does
everything possible to stay safe online.
• Well-intentioned: makes an effort to comply with
security rules, but occasionally fails, without any
• Irresponsible: expects the company to take
all necessary security measures and does not
assume any responsibility for data security.
• Bored and cynical: say security threat warnings
are excessive and even that security measures
discourage efcient work, so they prefer to bypass
the rules for their own benet.
The research points out the need to rethink security
regulations in order to continue providing adequate
protection against external attacks, while also adapting
to employee behavior and expectations.
The development of user-centred control means
that the former point security solutions will be replaced
by centrally controlled, automatic controllers and
applications. Enterprise mobility trends and employee
expectations force IT executives to apply user-specic
protocols to the tools employees use. This exible
security control enables the company to react quickly
while reducing users and the company’s vulnerability.
Lack of awareness is the biggest problem. According
to the research, the most signicant internal risk factor
is the false sense of security that causes employees to
believe that their company protects them from possible
threats. 35% of respondents expect the company’s
security settings to protect against all kinds of threats,
with nearly half (42%) saying it is their responsibility to
keep their data safe, while 62% of respondents believe
that their behavior has only a moderate impact.
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
4CYBER SECURITY REVIEW online, September 2020
This attitude results in a reduction in the effectiveness
of security rules. While 59% of employees believe that
a company has a valid security policy, nearly a quarter
(23%) of respondents do not know whether there is
any regulation. More than half (46%) of those surveyed
believe that regulators have no effect on their activities,
and 38% only see it when security settings prevent it.
However, in response to another question, 17% of
employees said that IT security hinders innovation
and collaboration within the company, and 14% feel
restricted in their daily workow. 17% of respondents
believe that missed business opportunities cause the
company to lose more than the loss due to a data leak.
Because nearly three-quarters (69%) of employees
are unaware of problems affecting many users, such
as Heartbleed or the recent Shellshock vulnerabilities,
nearly one-third (32%) do not consider changing their
security habits. More than half (55%) of users use the
same password for all applications and websites, and
60% do not change their passwords regularly.
HUMAN FIREWALL: THE BEST PROTECTION
Last year was a year of blackmail viruses, and all
indications are that this type of threat has reached its
peak. However, cybercriminals are not expected to
give up this lucrative source next year, and will even
expand the pool of opportunities. Experts predict that
the number of newly discovered blackmail virus families
will increase as criminals look for new targets: POS
terminals, ATMs and industrial systems will be targeted.
Even the best-built enterprise system cannot be
protected if only one person is responsible for security.
Experts believe that the only solution is to regulate users.
The most signicant vulnerability is the human side.
The enterprise data body is fundamentally complex,
and it has become even more extensive and intricate
with the appearance of smart devices. With the spread
of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, some
users and devices who hardly have any connection to
the company can get access to its systems. This is
also the reason why there is no harmonized security
in IT; people start using the system after “plugging in”
their own devices, and therefore become the hole in
There are no asset systems that are both secure and
quality-assured, so the business manager’s problem
to overcome. Continuous and immediate change
monitoring would be necessary. Although developers
repair systems, it is difcult for business executives to
x them on the go. However, reports of bugs also reach
hackers; therefore, those who do not immediately use
the new patches are at an increased risk, as criminals
can identify these vulnerability holes.
What is the solution to the restructuring of the
existing system? The answer seems obvious: on the
one hand, new rules are needed, and, on the other,
compliance with the rules needs to be promoted (see
point V for details). Some systems have strict rules that
apply to everyone who becomes part of the system –
see trafc rules. There is no standard set of IT rules,
but at least within companies, you have to implement
one that you need to adhere to. We need solutions, not
People, technology and policy (regulation) have to
work together, but we have to put together a system
that makes these three things work. The “human
rewall” is more effective than anything else. It is not
enough to deal with the “human factor” at one level
only; in fact, the three groups need to communicate
Secure corporate IT has more human aspects
than you might think. So we need to look not only at
machines, but also at people and on three levels. The
product you buy does not protect itself, even if you buy
the best on the market. IT security is not a product but
a state. It must be achieved, and, very importantly,
further sustained through action; it must be operated.
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
For proper regulation, information security must be
ensured from hardware, software and communication,
i.e. systems (physical layer), people (personal layer
– training, what to do and why it is important) and
processes (organizational layer – broken down into
specic corporate actions; who pulls the plug, if
necessary, who reports, etc.)
Of the possible incidents, only one is due to viruses
and malicious code. The critical issues are data leakage
(when a colleague, for example, accidentally takes
out sensitive data, e.g. sending a complete customer
list instead of a quote) or denial of service. The latter
can be crucial in the age of cloud computing. So the
“human factor’’ is an integral part of IT security. To
increase the level of IT security in the organization, we
need to keep our colleagues as well as the machines
operating as necessary.
THE SERVICE STATE MODEL AND INFORMATION
In his book ‘On Demand Government: Continuing the
e-government Journey’ Todd Ramsey states that
on-demand government, in contrast to previous state
government models (e.g. night watch state, welfare
state), provides proactive, on-demand services that
Figure 2. Human rewall.
Figure 3. Objectives of the application of technical
meet customer expectations, while relying frequently
on partners and suppliers. In his quoted work,
Ramsey denes the service state according to the
level of administrative modernization. He identied the
following six interrelated criterions:
• organizational culture,
• the operation model,
• the technological infrastructure,
• the conversion schedule and
• perspective thinking.
In connection with information security risk
assessment and management, the most important
aspects of the on-demand state are the operation
model and the technological infrastructure. The values
created by an organization are the result of operational
processes. In a service provider organization, activities
and processes are optimized for maximum customer
Today’s development trap, however, is often
not the modernization of core processes and core
activities that are overlooked, but the development of
complementary processes and activities (non-core),
with the complete absence of risk management. This is
the reason why a seemingly advanced ofce is close to
collapse and unable to perform its duties .
It is important that the development of the technological
infrastructure should always follow the elaboration of the
operating principles and processes of the organization.
The bigger the government, and wider its range of tasks,
the more it is exposed to attacks. This statement is even
more applicable to the on-demand state model, as the
scope of public administration is widening and the focus
of operation and administration shifts from the ofine to
the online space.
The customer orientation of the on-demand state can
lead legislators to only focus on the goal of achieving
the fully developed digital state, resulting in neglecting
the time-consuming questions of information security
and risk assessment.
As was highlighted in the previous heading, the
human rewall is the best solution for improving
information security. The on-demand government
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
6CYBER SECURITY REVIEW online, September 2020
therefore must ensure the creation of a reliable,
enforceable set of information security rules and
a continuous training platform for public sector
employees. Moreover, the training opportunity
on a long term should be open to all citizens by
incorporating information security and cyber security
courses in the public education system from the
The purpose of training is to represent a personnel
education program beyond awareness raising by
competence building. The education programs have
different types. The most common according to are
•Exercise: the instrument to measure and improve
the capability of elements or processes (such
as personnel, system, communication, and
organization) that are essential for performing a
fast recovery and mitigating the impact caused
by a disruption. The exercise is conducted based
on a scenario that requires a knowledge-based
decision action and decision-making, such as that
required in a situation that is not scripted in the
incident handling manual, or one involving a highly
disrupted core business process.
•Test: the validation process of a system’s
operability and capability.
•Drill: the repetitive practice of skills within a
•Training: theoretical education of the personnel
about their responsibilities and skills, which
prepares them for exercises, tests and actual
Thanks to the wide range of publicly available
exercises and training materials, continuous training of
the personnel can be carried out without excessive costs.
In the future, it is expected that security experts will
often hear the term multi-layer protection. It is no
coincidence that we need to be prepared for complex
threats that are no longer sufcient for traditional
security technologies or protection systems that
operate in isolation.
The emergence of a service-state model and efforts
to build a digital state would require risk management
guidelines to be included in Country Strategy Papers,
but unfortunately, there is a complete lack of risk
management provisions not only in the area of
The absence of risk management aspects in the
Country Strategy Papers results in a lack of a unied
view, mission and target in the eld of information
security in the public administration, and thus a
heterogeneous structure and approach to the risk
management plans of individual public administrations.
National threats to information security risk analysis
and assessment are required to substantiate threats
and objectives. The NIS Directive (Figure 3) identies
key issues for national cyber-security strategies.
The provision indicates the preparation of a risk
assessment plan to disclose risks and the presentation
of risk management principles as a separate point. A
statutory risk assessment and risk management plan
at the national level could provide a solution to the
problem identied in the study.
An adequate security level can only be achieved
if different levels of protection work in concert with
one another. This aspect should be considered when
purchasing and deploying new tools. There is no single
magic weapon, an all-in-one security solution. The
key to multilevel protection and collaboration lies in
advising professionals and researchers as well. ■
 Risk Based Security - Data Breach QuickView Report
2019 Q3 https://www.riskbasedsecurity.com/2019/11/12/
 B. Annamária, Information security and the digital state:
the role of the risk management principles in the strategic
documents, Bánki Report Vol 1 No 3 (2018), pp. 56-60.
 Md Sahrom bin Abu & Sharifah Roziah binti Mohd
Kassim, Mirai Botnet Infection in Malaysia: Impact
and Countermeasures. e-Security | Vol: 43 - (2/2017)
CyberSecurity Malaysia 2017. pp. 55-57.
 Trend Micro, THE NEXT TIER Trend Micro Security
Predictions for 2017, https://documents.trendmicro.com/
assets/rpt/rpt-the-next-tier.pdf pp. 1-20.
 Thycotic, Black Hat Hacker Survey Report 2017,
BlackHat_ Hacker_Survey_Report_2017.pdf pp. 1-6.
THE HUMAN FIREWALL
 Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon: A legendás hacker 2. - A
behatolás m?vészete - A behatolás m?vészete. Perfact-
Pro Kft. 2006. pp. 1-312.
 Vasvári György videó portré (2014. okt. 6.): https://www.
 Cisco: How to be agile and secure - the fundamental
challenge facing organizations today, https://www.cisco.
be_agile_and_secure.pdf pp. 1-18.
 PwC: The Global State of Information Security® Survey
 Zs. Szabó, Cybersecurity issues in industrial control
systems, IEEE 16th International Symposium on
Intelligent Systems and Informatics: SISY 2018. IEEE
Hungary Section, 2018. pp. 231-234.
 T. Ramsey, On Demand Government: Continuing the
e-government Journey, Lewisville: IBM Press, 2004.
 Budai Balázs Benjámin: Az E-közigazgatás elmélete,
Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2009. pp. 1-474.
 Tomomi A. et al.: On the Complexity of Cybersecurity
Exercises Proportional to Preparedness, Journal of
Disaster Research Vol. 12. No. 5., 2017
 Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of The European Parliament
and of The Council of 6 July 2016 concerning
measures for a high common level of security of
network and information systems across the Union,
F/?uri=CELEX:32016L1148&from=HU pp. 1-30.
ABOUT THE AUTORS
Annamária Beláz is a third-year
doctoral student at the Doctoral
School on Safety and Security
Sciences at Óbuda University.
Her research areas include
research on the organization of
information security in public sector
bodies and legal-strategic issues in
cybersecurity and cybersecurity.
Zsolt Szabó is a fourth-year doctoral
student at the Doctoral School on
Safety and Security Sciences at
His research interests include the
economic effects of global aging on
pension security (micro- and macro-
simulation), information security
issues on retirement disbursements (IT security,
information security, cybersecurity).