Over the years, the members of the ideaBOX team have seen many companies that thought they had a good grasp of their cybersecurity—only to fall victim to a cyberattack. In many cases, this is the inciting incident that brings them to ideaBOX.
Before they actually suffered a breach, security awareness at the organization was more or less: “I think somebody in IT is taking care of it.” Meanwhile, the IT department would often be too busy simply ensuring that the company’s network is up (and providing tech support to the entire organization) to worry about mitigating cybersecurity risks.
While this scenario is all too common, it reflects a lack of a cybersecure culture within the company. This one missing ingredient can cause even the best cybersecurity tools, procedures, and policies to fail when they should have worked to stop an attack. What is a cybersecure culture? How does it help companies thwart cyber threats? More importantly, how can you build a corporate culture that minimizes cybersecurity risks?
What Does Having a Cybersecure Culture Mean?
A “cybersecure culture” is a type of corporate culture that places an emphasis on maintaining strong cybersecurity awareness—being alert for potential threats and working proactively to identify and contain cyber threats before they become big cyberbreaches.
Having a strong cybersecure culture in your organization means more than just having a bunch of cool security gadgets or a written information security program (WISP)—although companies with a cybersecurity-focused corporate culture will often have these things. It means:
- Actively promoting cybersecurity awareness;
- Holding people in all positions to rigorous security standards;
- Doing more than the bare minimum demanded by cybersecurity regulations to protect your business’ data (and the data of your customers) from compromise; and
- Keeping information security front of mind whenever there’s a change made to the organization.
Why Does Having a Cybersecurity-Focused Culture Matter to You?
To illustrate how a company lacking a cybersecure culture can easily fall victim to hackers, here’s a hypothetical situation that may seem all too familiar.
How a Lack of Awareness Can Cause Trouble
Bob in accounting gets an urgent email from Mr. Airs, his company’s VP of Finance, claiming that he needs an immediate copy of several financial documents—or else. Though the communication is unexpected and outside the norm of Mr. Airs’ usual correspondence with the finance team, Bob, in a panic, sends over the information.
Hours later, the company’s financial information is up for sale on some random dark web site, and/or thousands of dollars may have been embezzled from some company accounts. What happened?
What Went Wrong?
This is an oversimplified example of a phishing attack, but it highlights one of the big problems with having a corporate culture that doesn’t promote cybersecurity. In short, it leaves people susceptible to falling for relatively simple cyberattacks.
In the example, Bob, despite recognizing that the communication was odd, responded to it and surrendered sensitive documents in a direct reply. A more alert employee with stronger cybersecurity awareness would have thought about the urgency of the email, the oddity of being directly addressed by a VP out of the blue, and other phishing attack warning signs and followed a set process for verifying the legitimacy of the communication. This could have prevented the data breach and thwarted the attack.
Traditionally, a business’ employees are the weakest link in the organization’s cybersecurity architecture. The increased alertness encouraged by a cybersecure culture can make an enormous difference in how susceptible employees are to basic cyberattacks.
How to Build a Corporate Culture That Promotes Cybersecurity
So, how can you build a cybersecure culture within your own business? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Start at the Top. As in many business initiatives, it is vital to have the people at the top lead by example. Getting buy-in from the top of the corporate ladder and making sure they follow cybersecurity best practices is crucial for getting everyone else in the organization to adopt them. Think of it this way: If leaders flaunt security practices and adopt a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude, can you really expect everyone else to take security issues seriously?
- Provide Security Education Training and Awareness (SETA) Programs. To follow cybersecurity best practices, people need to know them first. Having a security education program in place allows you to communicate standards and expectations to your employees. Ideally, this program should include training for new employees and ongoing education for existing employees to help reinforce earlier lessons and keep security front of mind.
- Conduct Cybersecurity Drills with Employees. Consider running cybersecurity drills to test your company’s security procedures from your WISP document. Try to test how well employees respond to simulated attacks to identify opportunities for improvement and potential gaps in your cybersecurity architecture. Simulated phishing attacks can be especially effective at promoting awareness. Providing employees with reports detailing their performance in the drill can be incredibly helpful for improving their cybersecurity awareness (and show them how they can improve in the future).
- Reward Successes. When an employee passes a cybersecurity evaluation—or brings a potential cyberattack to the attention of your security team by following your cybersecurity policies and procedures—be sure to reward that success. Even something as simple as a public statement of gratitude can help encourage others to remain alert and promote a cybersecure corporate culture in your organization.
Building a strong cybersecure culture is no small feat. Need more help in building a corporate culture that increases your cybersecurity? Reach out to the team at ideaBOX! We’re here to build up your cybersecurity so you can protect your business from modern cyber threats!