The word ‘integrity’ comes from the Latin ‘integer,’ meaning complete, or whole (the same source as the mathematical term for a whole number). A person with integrity, then, is someone who has a fully developed moral character. A person without gaps, who isn’t prone to dishonesty, cheating, lying, stealing, or other moral shortcomings. This is especially important in the context of cybersecurity, where a lack of integrity from an employee or even a department can lead to a huge security breach.

Here’s a brief look at how integrity affects security.

Why is Integrity Important?

As you’ll likely know, when it comes to the security of your company’s software, any broken link in the chain can result in a breach. Most security breaches, from hacking to social engineering, are preventable with a little bit of foresight and training.

Not only do security breaches lead to reputational damage, but it’s also likely you’ll face regulatory fines. These fines are frequently leveled at companies which have exposed customer data by failing to follow best practice guidelines and adhere to modern security standards.

Equifax, for instance, was fined $575 million after exposing the financial information of almost 150 million. In another case, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was forced to pay $4.3 million after sensitive data was stolen from unencrypted USBs. Across the Atlantic, British Airways was fined $230 million by the Information Commissioner’s Office for “poor security arrangements”, after hackers accessed the personal and payment data of customers. The list of such cases is endless and demonstrates that mistakes made by individual employees or departments can have a huge impact on an enterprise.

Cheating in Assessments

So how do you know if you have an integrity problem? One major sign is when employees cheat in assessments. If an employee is willing to skirt the rules on a test, they may be inclined to cut corners in other areas of their work. What’s more, those who cheat on tests often do not have the necessary knowledge to do the job at hand. In the context of security, unprepared employees will not adhere to best practices, which can result in subsequent breaches.

There are a variety of measures that organizations can take to prevent cheating. Implementing secure browser technology can prevent employees from navigating to unauthorized test aids on the internet. Online or on-site proctoring, which involves an invigilator monitoring a test-taker, can also reduce cheating. Using assessment technology that randomizes question order can prevent answer copying between employees. And finally, ensuring your assessment platform is secure will prevent perpetrators from accessing answers or changing results.

However, to tackle the integrity problem at its source, companies should focus on building a company culture with well-defined moral principles. A culture of learning must be fostered, in which employees who don’t understand how to do their jobs reach out for help, rather than attempting to cut corners. Organizations should also give individuals adequate opportunities to retake exams if they fail the first time around.

Measuring Integrity

Cybercrime has risen by 67% in the last five years, and cost organizations $13 million on average in 2018, according to Accenture. Having proven incredibly lucrative, this criminal industry will likely persist, so it’s important that organizations harden themselves against it.

Assessments are often the first line of defense, allowing organizations to discover knowledge gaps and administer the necessary training to bring employees up to scratch. But the benefits of assessments are undermined when individuals cheat, making it impossible to know whether that employee is prepared for the job or not. Cheating also signals a deeper problem – if an employee is willing to cheat in an exam, they’re likely to cut corners elsewhere in the business.

Ultimately, building a company culture that encourages honesty and integrity will lead to tighter security in your organization. Outline your moral principles to employees, reward honesty, and ensure that the leadership team holds its hands up when it make mistakes. It just might create a happier, more engaged and better performing workforce.