The Missing Link in Cybersecurity: Culture
A business's employees are its first line of defense against cyber attacks. Here's how to build an employee security culture that stops hackers in their tracks.
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Cybersecurity culture is vital to strengthening a business’s first line of defense: Employee security practices. Most cyberattacks on businesses today target employees first. By building a supportive workplace culture that motivates employees to improve their security awareness, businesses can reduce their cyber risks.
How can business leaders go about creating a cybersecurity culture on their teams? A few core principles offer a good place to start.
Phishing and the Missing Link in Security
Cybersecurity is a top concern for many businesses today, and with good reason. Rates of cybercrime have been on a steady climb since 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an 81% increase in cyber threats facing businesses. At the same time, remote and hybrid work has increased the use of technology in the workplace.
With these conditions in mind, employees play a crucial role in any business’s cybersecurity strategy. Software and network security tools are often at the forefront of security strategies, but these measures can only do so much. By the time an antivirus program kicks into action to stop a malware threat, the network has already been compromised somewhere.
Employees are the key to keeping malicious content out of businesses’ networks to begin with. An estimated 54% of ransomware attacks begin with phishing emails. These malicious emails are getting more common and often more sophisticated, posing as emails from employees’ managers or co-workers.
A security culture is key to teaching employees to recognize these suspicious emails as well as the other cyber threats they face on a daily basis.
How to Build a Cybersecurity Culture
Cybersecurity policies are an important aspect of any business’s security strategy. However, rules and regulations can seem somewhat distant to employees, especially if they don’t fully understand the purpose of those rules. A cybersecurity culture in the workplace is the way to bridge that gap and make cybersecurity a cooperative effort. There are some core tactics that businesses can use to begin building a culture of cybersecurity.
1. Lead by Example
The most important component of a cybersecurity culture is the role of a business’s leaders. When business executives demonstrate the qualities or behaviors they are asking of employees, it shows they are holding themselves to the same standards they demand of everyone else.
This authenticity is part of the “give your shirt” leadership style, where leaders demonstrate mutual respect for their employees and work to put the needs of others first. Executives and managers have to express their enthusiasm for cybersecurity efforts and actively practice what they preach.
2. Make Security Accessible
For many employees, cybersecurity is not a familiar topic, even for people who are good with technology. Security is simply not something that is baked into the way people typically learn to use tech and the internet. So, part of building a cybersecurity culture in the workplace is making security accessible to all employees.
Training is often a great way to do this, but it’s important to use the right kind of training. Think back to middle school and high school – learning by playing a game in class was always more engaging than filling out a worksheet. An effective cybersecurity training program works the same way. Business leaders need to understand what kinds of training programs would be most engaging to their employees.
Gamification is often a highly effective training strategy. This involves using elements of game design and friendly competition to motivate employees. For example, a business could walk employees through the key signs of a phishing email and then test their knowledge by having employees play a game where they identify phishing emails. The employee or department that scores the highest can get some kind of reward, like free lunch or an extra day off.
3. Set Motivating Goals
Security strategies can come off as somewhat abstract to many people. Training may help employees understand the risks at hand and why security is important. However, employees may still be ambivalent about cybersecurity if they don’t see how their actions support a larger mission or goal.
Security goals are a key aspect of building a cybersecurity culture. They act as a lighthouse that points employees’ security efforts in the right direction and reminds everyone what they are working towards. Make sure these goals are measurable and realistically achievable.
For example, a business may be noticing that employees are getting a lot of phishing emails. A good security goal, in this case, might be to flag a certain number of phishing emails each quarter. The security department should have a way of keeping employees up to date on everyone’s progress toward the goal as they go along.
4. Prioritize Communication
Communication is absolutely essential to successfully creating a culture of cybersecurity. Employees should feel they can ask their managers if they ever have a security concern or question. If employees feel a business’s leaders are “too busy” or emotionally unavailable, they may be reluctant to ask for help when it’s needed.
There are a number of ways that business leaders can strengthen their communication skills and build better connections with employees. Transparent and supportive communication can go a long way toward generating awareness as well as enthusiasm about cybersecurity initiatives.
Cybersecurity: A Culture of Security and Support
Cybersecurity culture is often the key to reducing cyber threats in the workplace and defending against attacks that specifically target employees. Business leaders can build a cybersecurity culture by prioritizing strong communication, training, and support from leadership. With these actionable tips in mind, any business can get started cultivating a culture of cybersecurity awareness and resilience.
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