Businesses today have been forced to rapidly transform how work is done, with new interconnectivity that enables employees to work from home. COVID-19 didn’t start the remote work trend, but it did greatly accelerate it, leaving business leaders scrambling to figure out how to ensure their employees stay secure and productive outside of the office. Unfortunately, increased remote access means that each employee has a key to the castle, and with less support and oversight than ever before. And no matter how knowledgeable, experienced, or dedicated your security team — or how robust your cybersecurity tools — all it takes is one act of employee negligence to bring your entire organization to its knees.
No matter how much you spend on your security infrastructure, it won’t do a bit of good if the people you employ aren’t using it correctly. For example, you could install the best antivirus in the world, but if an employee falls for a spear-phishing scam and inadvertently gives their password to a hacker, it’s all for nothing. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to have a culture of security.
What is a culture of security?
A culture of security is an environment in which employees not only understand the importance of strong cybersecurity, but also actively participate in protecting the organization against cyberattacks.
Like any other values the company may uphold, security should be woven into every process and calculated into every decision. When security is part of the culture, each member of the business accepts personal responsibility for their actions online and recognizes they’ll be held accountable if they choose not to comply.
Here are a few examples of a powerful culture of security:
- Employees understand the difference between a strong and weak password, and change passwords regularly without being asked.
- Employees know how to identify potential threats, like phishing emails, and immediately report them to the security team.
- Department heads always work with security leaders to vet third-parties before investing in a new service or signing a contract with a new vendor.
- Employees never sign up for non-business-related services on their company devices or use corporate login credentials for personal accounts.
- If an employee makes a mistake, they let the security team know and take the necessary actions to correct their misstep.
- Employees don’t share passwords, door codes, keycards, or other assets because they recognize how easily they could fall into the wrong hands.
- No one feels they’re above cybersecurity rules, regardless of duties or seniority.
7 steps to building a culture of security in your workplace
To make security foundational to your company culture, you need to democratize it.
In other words, if you want to be successful in protecting your organization, then you can’t manage cybersecurity in a silo where security leaders are the only professionals with insight into how well your organization is performing. Rather than the traditional, top-down, authoritarian model of security, it must become collaborative.
After all, without visibility into your business security — or the steps security teams take to mitigate risks and clean up messes — employees will always assume everything is fine. By giving them insight into your processes, and the knowledge and skills to make their own decisions, they feel empowered to participate in the culture of security.
But how, exactly, can you democratize security? Here are seven steps we recommend:
Step 1: Survey your current situation
Start by assessing where you are today. Are employees actively engaged in the security process? How do you ensure they’re up to date on the latest best practices? Do you alert the organization when there’s a threat or attempted breach? (If so, how?)
Step 2: Educating all employees on their responsibilities
Once you’ve identified where your organization stands, it’s time to fill in the gap. Take time to educate employees on your cybersecurity process and their role in keeping the organization safe. This would be a good time to refresh them on best practices for passwords, where to report suspicious activity, and what they can do to protect your company while online.
Step 3: Charge department heads with reinforcing security
A team is only as strong as its leader. A culture of security won’t thrive unless each department leader is committed to upholding security standards. As with any other compliance requirements, department leaders are ultimately responsible for how well their team performs.
Step 4: Deploy actionable threat intelligence
One of the best ways to maximize security performance is to leverage threat intelligence technology. This way, you can identify whether your organization has been compromised, alert the company, and identify where the issue originated.
It also helps you measure your organization’s progress. For example, if the number of reported hacks declines over the course of a quarter, you know your security efforts are effective.
Step 5: Hold employees accountable
When you can trace the origin of a potential hack, you can determine which individual or department is responsible. For example, you might conclude that an employee used company credentials to set up an account on an unauthorized website, or you might discover an entire department is sharing one login for a service.
This insight allows you to hold employees accountable, ensure they correct their mistakes, and foster better security habits.
Step 6: Re-educate “slackers”
Instead of forcing the entire company to sit through security education every quarter, focus on refreshing your security slackers (employees who are lax about the rules and making the sorts of mistakes your processes exist to avoid). Over time, your least security-conscious employees may become the best-informed.
Step 7: Celebrating and recognize key wins
Be sure to reward the teams and individuals who are supporting a culture of security. If a department completed a quarter without an incident, for example, recognize them with a bonus or an extra day of PTO. This will inspire their continued commitment, and incentivize slackers to improve their performance.
Today, security is far too much for one person, one team, or one department to manage alone. Consistently defeating cyber threats requires a thorough understanding of security and unwavering commitment from every single member of your workforce.
However, a culture of security isn’t something you can build overnight. It takes strategy, consistency, buy-in from senior management, and, most importantly, it takes visibility across your organization. By taking the appropriate steps to build and reinforce your culture of security, you’ll be well prepared to boost your security and drive your organization forward.