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It’s all well and good to say that you need to foster a cybersecurity culture.

But how exactly do you do it? At first glance, something like a safety culture seems a lot easier. Everyone can relate and picture what the steps are to achieve that goal. 

Cybersecurity, on the other hand, usually evokes a shrug. The path to success isn’t as straightforward.

How can you build an influential cybersecurity culture in your business that everyone can get behind?

First, you need to shift your business’ understanding of cyber risk.

Most, if not all, businesses are now entirely digital thanks to the Internet and rapidly evolving technology. This shift has resulted in cyber risk becoming a critical business risk.  

It’s no longer a risk that can be squirreled away to an I.T. department or transferred to a service provider. A cyber attack now can directly impact your business’ reputation and bottom line. 

Your business needs to manage its cyber risk the same as it does all others with equal attention.

Secondly, inspire employees to do their part.

These days, with firewalls, antivirus, intrusion detection tools, and the like, we’ve made it exceedingly difficult for attackers to hack in and do a digital “smash and grab.” 

However, while we still need these tools, we can’t rely solely on them to keep us safe like we used to. 

Cybercriminals have learned to get around those tools and make their lives easier by leveraging something else – the human element of yourself, your employees, and your contractors. 

They’ll send them links to download malware disguised as Facebook friend requests, send fake invoices that look legitimate but have the attackers’ banking information, or even pick up the phone and call purporting to be someone important in the organization that needs a favor.

Inspire employees to do their part by sharing the business’ vision and commitment to a cybersecurity culture. Explain that you’re all in this together. Be transparent on your cybersecurity goals and provide a way for employees to offer their ideas and suggestions and participate in promoting the new culture and good cybersecurity behaviors such as in a champion or ambassador program.

Third, Educate yourself and your employees.

From your front-line employees to your executives, everyone in the business has the opportunity to add or reduce cyber risk through their actions and decisions. 

However, not everyone will know how their actions and decisions can impact the business’ cybersecurity or what steps they can take to secure the business better.

Educate your employees on the business’s specific cyber risks and how they can reduce these risks in their particular roles. Teach them skills such as detecting phishing emails and social engineering attacks. Explain to them how and when to report anything they discover that is malicious or suspicious and that they won’t get in trouble for reporting, even if their mistake resulted in a cyber incident.

Fourth, test whether it’s working.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity isn’t like safety, where the indicators that it’s working are relatively straightforward. Testing how resilient your business is to cyber incidents is critical to understand where you’re at and what needs to be improved.

Some methods you can use to test your business’ cybersecurity resiliency culture include:

  •  Mock phishing emails,
  • In-person exercises responding to mock attacks,
  • Cybersecurity games

Make sure, though, that before you test, to choose some actionable metrics. The goal of testing is to find the gaps in employee skills and education.

Fifth, celebrate good cybersecurity behaviors.

You’re looking for positive change in your employees, so celebrate those changes when they happen. 

Not only will reinforcing good cybersecurity behaviors and decisions signal to those celebrated employees that they’re doing a good job and motivate them to keep going.

It’ll also remind everyone else of the excellent cybersecurity actions and decisions that contribute to the culture.

You could celebrate the excellent cybersecurity behaviors with a personal acknowledgment, mention in a town-hall or group event, or a reward of some kind.

Sixth, work on the gaps.

Like any other new endeavor, there will be gaps and things that could be better. The tests may not have gone as well as you’d expected, or employees may not have been as enthusiastic about taking up the new culture. Take these as an opportunity to adjust. Try new messaging. Provide employees more education or further education if the tests revealed skill gaps. 

Remember, change is hard. A cybersecurity culture needs to be a no-shame and no-blame area. Employees will make mistakes. Lecturing or shaming for mistakes or lousy cybersecurity practices isn’t going to move the needle. Encouragement, recognition, and managing performance will.

Seventh, repeat, repeat, repeat.

One of the worst things you can do is gather your employees to announce you’re starting a cybersecurity culture and then never speak of it again.

Continually remind your employees to have a cyber-secure day, include cybersecurity moments at the beginning of meetings, incorporate cybersecurity into your decision-making, and identify non-cyber-secure decisions in your direct reports and work with them to correct those.

Actions like these over time will help to keep the momentum going, solidify, and strengthen the cybersecurity culture in your business.

This year, are you going to begin building a culture of cybersecurity in your business?

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