Sun | May 7, 2023 | 7:42 AM PDT

Gone are the days when people used to highlight job ads in newspapers when looking for a job. In today's digital era, recruitment has transformed into e-recruitment, making the whole process a digital affair. 

However, this has also led to an uptick in data breaches and privacy concerns. So how can recruitment agencies and freelance recruiters ensure that they prevent data breaches and protect candidate privacy? Here's how.

What are the data security risks in recruitment?

As the recruitment process involves collecting a large amount of personal data, the risk of data breaches is higher. Recruiters and HR departments handle sensitive information like names, date of birth, postal and email addresses, work history, and education. Recruiters also have to process full background checks for their potential employees, as stated by Fair Credit: "In addition to criminal background searches, background screenings frequently include verification of the job candidates' previous places of employment." This data is vulnerable to cyberattacks that can seriously harm not only candidates but also the reputation of the company.

The following are some of the most common types of cyberattacks.

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are used to access sensitive information. They're typically carried out via email, messaging apps, and social media, and are masked as sent from trustworthy sources like banks and governmental organizations.

In the recruitment world, phishing attacks trick recruiters as well as candidates into revealing sensitive information, such as their Social Security numbers and passwords. For instance, a cybercriminal may hack a recruiter's database and email potential candidates posing as a recruiter or employer. The email would include an attachment that when clicked installs malware that steals the individual's sensitive information.

Malware attacks

Malware cyberattacks are designed to disrupt computer systems, access sensitive networks, and hack sensitive data. These involve viruses, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware, among many others. 

Malware attacks are carried out via infected websites and software. Hackers and cybercriminals create fake recruitment websites and job boards that appear legitimate, but are actually designed to steal sensitive information.

Once a person clicks on these websites, they give access to these cybercriminals to access their data. This data can then be used by the cybercriminal or sold on the dark web for further crimes.

Insider threats

Another common cybersecurity risk in recruitment is insider threats. Unfortunately, this refers to individuals within the recruitment agency who intentionally or unintentionally use their access to sensitive data to harm the agency. For instance, a recruiter may accidentally share a large number of resumes via email, or a recruiter might try to make money by selling email addresses as a side gig.

Undoubtedly, both malicious and careless insiders have a negative impact on the agency they represent. They not only share the sensitive information of potential candidates, putting these individuals in danger, but also destroy the agency's reputation.

4 ways to prevent data breaches in recruitment

1. Conduct regular security audits

Regular security checks ensure that your organization's security posture is up to date. It's designed to identify potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities so that they can be addressed immediately. This ensures that your team finds these problems before cyber criminals do.

During such an audit, the company's security portfolio is examined for potential weaknesses. Once these weaknesses are identified, the results are used to create an action plan to address them. This may involve implementing new security strategies and cutting-edge software, and making sure that all employees are up to speed with cybersecurity training.

2. Limit access to sensitive data

Limiting access to sensitive information is crucial to avoiding internal threats. By only giving data access to certain individuals within the company, you'll reduce the risk of accidental exposure, malicious misuse, or unauthorized access.

To do this, you need to implement the required access controls to sensitive data. These can range from something as routine as two-factor authentication (2FA) to user activity monitoring software. Additionally, you should only give employees access to the information they need to properly do their jobs. Anything beyond this can lead to a massive data breach that ruins the company's reputation.

3. Use encryption

There are several types of encryption that recruitment and job agencies can use to protect their clients from data breaches. Data-at-rest is one of the most common types of encryption, as it involves the encryption of data stored on devices. This safeguards data in case of device theft.

On the other end of the spectrum, data-in-transit encryption protects data shared over networks. This type of encryption is useful if the agency transmits large amounts of data over the Internet, as it prevents interception by unauthorized parties.

Finally, end-to-end encryption ensures the data is fully encrypted from the moment it leaves the sender to when it lands in the recipient's inbox. This is useful to protect against eavesdropping by cybercriminals and data leaks.

4. Train employees on data protection

Training your employees should be the first and most crucial step when recruiting anyone at a recruitment agency. Eighty-eight percent of data breaches are caused by an employee's mistake. Therefore, employee training is essential to avoid such errors.

Cybersecurity training should cover topics like malware, phishing, password management and security, data protection regulations, and how to handle sensitive data. Employees should be taught how to detect malicious emails and websites and flag suspicious candidates. Password training is especially important, as it might be taken for granted, but can quickly lead to malicious access by third parties.

In addition to this training, you should also foster a company culture that centers around data security. Doing this ensures your employees are given the right tools to handle sensitive information, and encourages managers to take the appropriate immediate action when they get a data security report.

In conclusion

The rise of e-recruitment has brought immense benefits. It enables recruitment to work remotely, while also giving them access to a global talent pool. However, it also comes with significant cybersecurity risks. Therefore, recruitment agencies need to keep a close eye on their cybersecurity protocols and ensure that their staff are fully trained on all things cybersecurity. A mistake only happens once, but the consequences can completely demolish a company's reputation and client base.

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