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How to Address Cultural Change When Implementing a Cybersecurity Program

Cybersecurity is more important than ever before, with the number of corporate breaches increasing dramatically since 2020. In response to recent spikes in threats, many companies are working to create a more cybersecurity-focused employee base. The most effective way to do this is through a top-down, widespread shift in company culture, which places security among the top values.

Why Cultural Change Is Important for Cybersecurity

At many companies, training sessions are the main, and often only, time leaders engage with employees about cybersecurity. These are typically required, and for good reason. Education is foundational to promoting a culture of cybersecurity best practices.

However, required training sessions are not generally effective at sparking widespread, lasting change in employee behaviors. Suppose workers view cybersecurity education as a required once-a-year meeting and little more. In that case, they are unlikely to pay attention thoroughly or implement what they learn for an extended period, if at all. This is especially concerning with more people working at home, which has been a major cause of recent surges in cyberattacks worldwide.

Company culture can change this. The values a business expresses to its employees are a driving factor in determining their behavior and attitude on the job. Including cybersecurity in the pillars of company culture indicates that it’s in the top bracket of importance to everyone in the organization. Conveying this can be pivotal in convincing employees at all levels to take cybersecurity seriously, especially regarding how their actions affect overall safety.

Elements of a Security-Focused Company Culture

A company culture that prioritizes cybersecurity goes well beyond annual training sessions. It implements measures to encourage individual employees to utilize best practices for security on all their devices.

Education should be ongoing and engaging, with opportunities to involve employees in the conversation. Rather than covering up security breaches when they do happen, a cybersecurity-focused company uses these incidents as learning opportunities and teaching moments.

A comprehensive education initiative should include coverage of recent cybersecurity news as well as informative readings on key security topics and threats. Phishing and equally dangerous spear-phishing emails are a top concern for many company’s cybersecurity education programs since they are by far the most common type of breach. It is vital for company leaders and managers to set a good example for everyone else in addition to educating their departments further on cybersecurity.

Leading tech companies like Yahoo have demonstrated highly effective cybersecurity adoption through top-down company cultural changes. For example, it implemented a gamification system whereby managers could essentially compete with other departments by tracking cybersecurity incidents, such as how many employees opened a simulated phishing email, and comparing them via a shared dashboard.

Company leaders can also take advantage of things like National Cybersecurity Awareness Month to share extra info and engage with employees through discussions and special events.

Cybersecurity-focused company culture should include some sort of recognition system for employees who demonstrate top-notch practices. This offers an incentive for workers to improve their digital security awareness and habits and share that security performance with others. Any element of gamification or friendly competition can get more people engaged with the company’s message.

How to Get Everyone Engaged in Cybersecurity

Ultimately, the goal of a company culture change to prioritize cybersecurity is to get more employees to adopt good security practices. Approaches for accomplishing this will vary depending on the size of the company and their particular niche and values. There are a few methods that can work well, no matter the circumstances. The focus should surround increasing engagement at all levels, from top brass downward.

As mentioned above, gamification and friendly competition can be great tools for motivating widespread cultural change. Competition is an easy method for increasing engagement, especially with a good incentive for individuals to perform well.

This has led some companies to offer cybersecurity degrees to individuals who demonstrate an understanding of its importance. Smaller incentives can work just as well, though.  For example, managers can provide vacation time or gift cards to employees who regularly use the company-recommended password manager.

Providing quality tools and resources is helpful, as well. It is important to remember that employees are more likely to use them if they are convenient and user-friendly. Accessibility and communication are key to building a company culture of good cybersecurity.

This can make a difference when determining what password management system to use. Employees are more likely to take advantage of cybersecurity tools that are easy and convenient to utilize. Not all technology or software is simple to use, but even those that are a bit more complex can be improved by training sessions or detailed guides to help employees along.

Safer Online, Together

Shifting company culture to increase focus on cybersecurity requires a top-down approach that includes everyone within the organization. Accessibility of security software, desirable incentives for improving behaviors, and engaging educational programs are all key parts of creating a strong security culture.

When companies involve everyone in the effort to be safer online, employees, their families, and the entire organization can benefit and innovate as a result.

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

About the Author: Devin Partida



Devin Partida is cybersecurity and technology writer, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the tech blog ReHack.com.

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