How to Establish a Healthy Cyber Security Culture


Considering how a large part of cyber security relies on antivirus software, firewalls, and encryption systems, many businesses assume that IT personnel are solely responsible for keeping networks safe. And although this statement holds true for the technical nuances of security, we argue that all employees, operational managers, and security professionals have a shared responsibility to protect the organisation.

A quick glance at the news shows that defending against cyber threats is about more than just relying on IT professionals. Now more than ever, companies must establish a cyber security culture that promotes good online security behaviour across all departments. Why? This December, users and businesses alike can expect a deadly mixture of holiday-themed Amazon phishing scams, point-of-sale attacks, and social engineering schemes. Don’t let the upcoming festivities of the season leave you unprepared for these attacks. Here’s how:

Invest in ongoing awareness training programs

If employees are the weakest links of your cyber security, then your company culture should be geared towards helping them develop good security awareness and habits.

Usually, organisations require that employees undergo annual security awareness training, but that’s often seen as a mandatory practice rather than a chance to enhance cyber security. As time passes, organisations tend to relax their standards, leading to recurring issues.

To truly cement the importance of network security, frequent security training is necessary. Much like any software update, periodic training sessions give you the opportunity to teach employees how to identify and defend against current exploits, bugs, and social engineering techniques used by hackers.

The format of your training sessions is also important. To promote a sustainable security culture, keep security seminars engaging and avoid long and complicated PowerPoint presentations. Our suggestion: start and end meetings with a quick round of cyber security trivia to solidify what employees have learned.

Promote security awareness with other methods

Beyond training sessions, social engineering self-defence tips can be easily shared through a monthly internal newsletter. Login pages and automated emails could provide biannual reminders to change employee passwords. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, hiring an ethical hacker to simulate a variety of attacks not only tests security awareness; but also helps personnel experience a ‘real-life’ cyberattack. The more you incorporate security into daily business processes; the more likely employees will develop good security habits in the long term.

Reward compliant employees

Of course, knowing when to avoid unsolicited links, suspicious phone calls, and malware-ridden websites is no small feat. For this reason, you should acknowledge employees who practice the right cyber security habits on a regular basis. In most cases, a simple cash reward of $50-100 is enough to motivate people to absorb every bit of information you provided in your seminars.

Although rewarding each and every employee may seem costly at first, the return on investment on preventing a massive data breach greatly outweighs the small monthly expense. In fact, according to cyber security researchers, the average cost of a cyber-attack on Australian businesses is over $622,000 per year. Considering that you’d spend only $50-100 per security-cooperative employee, we’d say that’s well worth the investment.

The point is, rewarding good behaviour incentivises active contribution to your company’s cyber security efforts, and instils the idea that security is a top priority.

Set the tone of your cyber security culture

No matter how extensive security policies and procedures may be, it’s not enough to influence behavioural changes in the office. For good cyber security culture to stick, executives and business leaders have to set the tone and lead by example.

More often than not, security solutions are purchased on a whim rather than because of cost-benefit analyses and risk assessments. You — the business owner — should engage with and understand security policies to make informed decisions. For instance, purchasing cloud services is a viable option only if it offers advanced encryption systems to keep your data secure.

You and other senior leaders should also champion cyber security best practices. This means staying abreast of the latest social engineering scams, keeping security software updated as well as using password management and two-factor authentication. When senior leaders are enthusiastic advocates of cyber security best practices, the rest of the organisation is sure to follow.

Develop a cyber security response plan

While proactive awareness is crucial for your business, your security culture should also acknowledge that breaches can happen. An employee might accidentally download free software or misplace a company-issued laptop. Whatever the case may be, having a strong incident response plan helps prepare your organisation for worst-case scenarios.

In your security training sessions, outline the key details of the response plan to your employees. Make sure all company personnel — including yourself — understand their roles during and after a cyber-attack. By the end of the session; individual staff members should know whom to contact and how to communicate with disgruntled employees. At the same time, you and other operational staff should agree upon which systems should be recovered first and what business continuity solution is best for your business.

Afterwards, test your incident response plan as regularly as you would your security awareness program. Conducting cyber simulations can help you evaluate your organisation’s overall response and security preparedness; and when paired with security awareness training, your business can mitigate any risk.

A strong culture equals a strong business

Do keep in mind, developing a cyber security culture that’s vigilant, resilient, and strong doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that has to engage every level of your business; from the C-level executives to the least tech-savvy employees. But it’s something that needs to happen if your company plans to survive against a myriad of ever-evolving threats.

Despite the challenges you’ll face, establishing a strong cyber security culture doesn’t have to be a perilous journey. Here at Empower IT, we understand that, improving cyber security takes a bit of time and effort. And that’s why our security professionals will dedicate the same time and effort in strengthening not only your network; but your company culture as well. Contact us today to see what it takes to achieve a holistic cyber security culture.