Welcome to National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). As a NCSAM champion, SafeBreach is honored to be part of this year’s theme: “It’s easy to stay safe online.” Hosted by the National Cybersecurity Alliance and the US Department of Homeland Security, this annual awareness month is all about encouraging better collaboration between government and private industry to enhance our online security practices.
This year, NCSAM will focus on different capabilities that you, as an employee, family member, friend, and internet user can leverage in your personal and professional life to stay safe online. From enabling multi-factor authentication and using strong passwords to updating your software and recognizing and reporting phishing, NCSAM has identified foundational ways to establish healthier habits for online safety. Beyond our personal life, these key security behaviors can also be implemented in the workplace to help shift the narrative that employees are the weakest link in an organization’s cybersecurity posture.
The reality is, people are not intrinsically the weakest link in cybersecurity—it is your organization’s responsibility to make them an effective part of your security strategy. NCSAM is doing their part to help change the messaging to cybersecurity teams that employees can be the strongest link in an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Continue reading for some insights on the matter from team SafeBreach.
Changing the Perspective
There is a lot of harm in assuming that employees are the weakest link in your organization’s security program. For starters, this mentality leads to over-stringent security controls on employees—making it difficult for people to do their jobs and requiring creativity to find loopholes against the controls to complete their tasks.
The reality is, finding ways around rigid security controls just causes even greater security risk with the introduction of backdoors and new vulnerabilities that didn’t previously exist. Furthermore, what type of environment are you creating if you assume your employees are part of the problem rather than making them part of the solution?
Shifting your perspective to viewing employees as the strongest link in your cybersecurity chain has significant security benefits. When properly trained, employees can be vital to your organization’s cybersecurity success. With a revised mentality, employees can minimize vulnerabilities and risks, becoming the strongest line of defense in your organization’s cybersecurity stack. Employees are a security asset, not a security liability.
Investing in Employee Potential
To turn your employees into your most valuable cybersecurity asset, you must invest in the training, tools, and incentives to help them realize their worth in the mission. This investment in their potential will inspire your employees to invest in better cybersecurity hygiene and best practices.
Inclusive, regular, and informed cybersecurity awareness training is an effective method for fortifying the human factor in cybersecurity. Before an organization invests in the start of their cybersecurity awareness training program, it is imperative to conduct an initial assessment to establish a baseline security posture as it relates to the human element.
With an established baseline, training initiatives can be tailored to the most susceptible employee risks—such as phishing. This way, a focus on training that is just general cybersecurity knowledge can be tailored and prioritized based on the organization’s risk posture. Once a strategy has been developed, it is imperative that inclusive participation is a priority—from the CEO down—so that a security-focused culture is clearly showcased to all employees. Leveraging national campaigns like NCSAM can add additional emphasis to the importance of the topic so that it is not just coming from internal stakeholders.
Giving employees the tools they need to be a security champion is imperative to the effectiveness of the training they receive. Training can only do so much for an organization if employees are not given the necessary tools to put what they learn into action. Free and easy communication channels for employees to leverage regarding the organization’s cybersecurity vision is imperative.
Through these channels, you can showcase the organization investing in cybersecurity beyond another training module, putting action behind the words of cybersecurity being a vital part to the organization’s culture. Additionally, having reporting tools to track and provide insights to employees on actionable intelligence of the organization’s security posture is also key to putting action behind the words and continuing to motivate employees to be a part of the mission.
Finally, as with most things, keeping employees motivated to have a cybersecurity-centric approach to their job is important. Cybersecurity can be a dry topic, especially as it gets added to the curriculum of necessary training requirements at a company. Engagement relies on motivation and incentive. Besides speaking to the importance of employees being a part of the cybersecurity program and overall corporate mission, incentives such as gamification can add an additional layer of motivation to the otherwise overly serious topic. Positive reinforcement such as implementing cyber champions can be another great way to ensure employees feel motivated and incentivized to be the strongest link to the overall security stack.
It is easy to fall into the assumption that employees are the weakest link in your organization’s cybersecurity program. According to Cisco Umbrella, 86% of organizations had at least one user try to connect to a phishing site. But, one must think, if a traditional security tool was neglected, it would be a weak link, too.
It’s time we stop viewing people as an unavoidable risk and start looking at ways to shift the narrative by making them part of the solution. With proper cybersecurity awareness training and an organizational push to adding cybersecurity to the organization’s culture, employees can go from being the weakest to the most valuable security link. Follow the National Cybersecurity Alliance all this month for more great resources to enable your employees to focus on cybersecurity.