How to Develop a Cybersecurity Culture Within Your Organization
Cultivating a cybersecurity culture requires all members of an organization to embrace attitudes and beliefs that drive secure behaviors. That includes employees at every level, from leadership to the frontline.
The key is communicating openly and creating an environment that supports employees reporting security incidents without fear of retaliation. Here are some ways to do that:
When employees see cybersecurity as second nature, it becomes easy for them to take data safety measures proactively. For example, if they notice a suspicious-looking email littered with spelling mistakes, they might report it to the security team instead of dismissing it.
Companies must communicate about it consistently, clearly, and engagingly to develop an effective cybersecurity culture. That involves ensuring that employees receive training, are regularly reminded about the organization’s cybersecurity strategy, and feel empowered to be the company’s first line of defense.
Developing a strong cybersecurity culture requires leadership to prioritize it and clarify to everyone that it’s a core value, just like innovation, diversity initiatives, or data-based decision-making. It also helps to designate a ” culture owner,” someone who oversees communications and drives culture change (not necessarily the CIO or CISO). Using messaging that resonates, such as famous movie titles or other pop culture references, is a great way to build engagement with cyber awareness programs and other security information campaigns.
Developing a culture of cyber security involves building knowledge, connecting hearts, nudging the right habits, and championing adoption. It also requires listening to employees and adjusting as needed.
For example, one company designates a non-technical executive as the ” culture owner,” whose job is to lead the actions necessary to change behaviors and drive values, attitudes, and beliefs. This person develops campaigns that resonate with employees using famous movie titles, fun icons, and other messages that connect on multiple fronts. These are used in training, digital displays, events, emails, blogs, alerts, and postcards.
Another strategy is to start early, train all new hires about cybersecurity in the first week of work, and include it in their onboarding process. This sets a tone and lets them know they’ll be expected to keep up with the team on this issue. And don’t forget your leadership – they are often hackers’ top targets because they have access to the highest-level data and are the most likely to be on mobile or working away from the office.
It’s not just technology that needs to keep hackers at bay; it’s the vigilance of all employees. They must internalize that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility and not something that happens ”over there” in the IT department.
One big way to get your teams on board is to make the training fun and engaging. Be bold and use pop culture references and humor to convey the message, and offer training in several formats (presentations, videos, quizzes) to reach every learning style.
Group-level engagement is also key; fostering a sense of community around the importance of security can help drive behavior. You can incorporate cybersecurity topics into meetings, watercooler conversations, Slack and Zoom groups, or employee recognition programs.
Another critical aspect of building a strong culture is to measure and track your progress. This allows you to understand where your security culture currently stands regarding its maturity and helps you identify areas for improvement. Measuring across multiple clearly defined vectors, including awareness training or attack simulations, verified and reported security incidents, employee feedback, and communications and engagement, is important.
The key to success for any cybersecurity culture is to involve everyone. This starts with the top – executive leadership must lead by example to encourage employees at all firm levels to take part in training and prioritize cybersecurity. Cybersecurity should be a core value for all management team members and regularly featured in meetings and events.
Creating an inclusive environment for everyone to share their knowledge and concerns will help everyone gain greater ownership of the process. This will make it easier to drive change and ensure security is something that all employees feel a sense of pride in, rather than feeling like they have to hide behind the door to prevent someone from getting in.
Allowing employees to discuss their experiences with the new training programs and any other questions is also important. It’s not helpful to cultivate versus them a mindset that pits employees against one another or management, so be sure to emphasize the positive aspects of these programs and encourage everyone to learn from their mistakes without fear of being reprimanded.
With cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated and commonplace, every business must establish an environment of accountability. This means that employees are one of the company’s primary lines of defense in safeguarding against attacks. In organizations with strong security cultures, people are conditioned to think of security as second nature and consider it their responsibility to keep the organization secure.
It’s also important to build a sustainable program. That means creating a measurable awareness program that provides value to the organization. A good example is an application security awareness program for developers, which helps ensure those on the front can identify vulnerabilities before they become serious threats. This can be measured through a secure development lifecycle (SDL), part of an ongoing awareness and training program.