5 ways to build a strong security-minded culture for your business

Cybersecurity is critical to any organization — and a security breach can have severe and long-term consequences for both small businesses and big enterprises. In the last few years, we’ve witnessed cyberattacks that are complex and highly sophisticated (the SolarWinds hack still keeps us up at night.) 

Most threats, however, often come in innocuous forms. Targeted at an organization’s weakest link — human users — a friendly email “from the CEO” can cause a real headache for security teams. One way to counter these threats is to teach users how to make security-minded choices and build a strong security culture that encourages them to do so. 

What is security culture?  

Security culture can be defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviors of an organization that relate to its data and digital security. You can also think of it as what people do on their work computers when no one’s looking. It’s like leaving your teenager home alone while you’re on vacation. Will they remember to lock the doors and feed the pets?  Or will they set the house on fire when they make a frozen pizza? Preparing for the situation ahead of time — whether you choose to do a practice run or devise a set of clear instructions — will reduce the risk of accidents while you’re away. 

How do organizations build a strong security-minded culture? 

Cyber attackers know that it’s easier to hack people than technology. Phishing scams, for instance, are designed to take advantage of human habits that can result in security lapses. For instance, the tendency to skim through emails, take things at face value, and overlook details like misspellings, weird grammar, or an uncharacteristic tone of voice.  

Building a strong security-minded culture can be a powerful line of defense against the digital dark arts by cultivating active human awareness and changing behavior patterns. This requires a long-term, multipronged approach that involves commitment, creativity, and teamwork.

1. Build awareness at every level

Develop cybersecurity awareness among users through regular education and outreach. Don’t be afraid to experiment with unconventional methods (read on for more ideas). Simulate scenarios that impact users on an individual level — like personal identity theft — so that the message really hits home. 

Awareness building can also target more advanced users like developers and testers. Provide opportunities and resources to hone their skills and knowledge in specialized areas such as application security.

2. Make learning more accessible by breaking it down into smaller chunks

Avoid scheduling one long and tedious security training session that only happens once a year. Instead, break it down into bite-sized pieces of content or micro-modules that are easier to digest and require less time to go through. Get creative with using different content formats and forms of communication — social media posts, text messages, infographics, short video or audio clips, podcasts, and even games. 

3. Make I.T. fun

Unless you’re looking to lower the user participation rate, we recommend not using PowerPoint for training or communicating important messages around cybersecurity. Instead, try experiential or game-based learning. For example, Living Security’s CyberEscape Online program uses AR or VR technology to simulate cyberattack scenarios, giving participants an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.  

Multinational companies like KPMG, AstraZeneca, and Verizon, have also introduced gamification as an approach to learning and development, with notable success in terms of engagement and participation levels. Go one step further by organizing hackathons or introducing leaderboards to encourage some friendly competition and drum up participation.

4. Set up a system of rewards and acknowledgment

If you want employees to take time out of their schedule to participate actively in training, you need to make it worth their while. Recognition for desired behavior can be reinforcing but probably not as much as the chance to win super cool prizes. This could be anything from limited edition swag to a Spotify Premium subscription. Budget permitting, prizes should be an assortment of perks and incentives that people would be excited to earn.

5. Make cybersecurity a team sport

Ideally, cybersecurity should be a collective mission and not just the responsibility of the IT security team or engineering departments. Senior management can help to integrate cybersecurity into the organization’s vision, mission, and day-to-day decision making. Encourage users to identify and report any security gaps or issues and reward them when they do.  

A strong security culture should also be paired with a robust IT security policy to provide consistency in approach and execution. A well-crafted policy helps to establish clear objectives and parameters and communicate them clearly to all stakeholders.

What are the key components of an IT security policy? 

At the very least, the key components of an IT security policy should include:  

  • Well-defined scope: This should cover data, networks, systems, infrastructure, facilities, and users (both internal and external). 
  • Clear goals or purpose: Security operations should be focused on the protection of all digital and IT assets, including data security.  
  • Authorization and access: Make sure that users have the appropriate level of access to your organization’s data, network, and servers, based on their roles and responsibilities. 
  • Data classification: Categorize data according to confidentiality and risk, which will allow you to allocate resources more strategically.  
  • Legislation: Make sure that your security policy is aligned with relevant legislation. In the U.S., the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act now mandates reporting requirements and cyberattack response protocol for core industry sectors.  
  • Clear instructions: Be clear about expected behavior when it comes to IT security and be upfront about the consequences of noncompliance.  

How can organizations improve their IT security policies? 

An organization’s IT security policy is a muscle that needs to be constantly honed to maintain strength and effectiveness. If you’re looking for ways to improve your organization’s security policy, consider the following areas: 

  • Conduct an organization-wide assessment and/or a penetration test to identify pre-existing gaps 
  • Have an incident response plan in place  
  • Automate the threat detection and remediation process 
  • Back up critical data  
  • Strengthen your password policy  
  • Introduce multifactor authentication 
  • Make security an integral part of decision making at all levels 
  • Evaluate and update your security policies regularly  

When it comes to cybersecurity, good housekeeping practices go a long way. All users should be diligent about developing healthy password habits and learn to identify, avoid, and report suspicious messages. To keep endpoints up to date and secure, IT administrators can tap on solutions like SmartDeploy to deploy software updates and patches from anywhere, and easily update Windows golden images. SmartDeploy also streamlines the deployment process, freeing up time that can be spent on more important security work.  

Watch our guided demo to learn how SmartDeploy can help you to create and manage Windows images, push out software updates, and create a more secure endpoint environment. Or download a free trial and try it for yourself.