In an ideal workplace environment, everyone would have a vested interest in maintaining adequate cybersecurity. Security, after all, affects every aspect of your organization. A single data breach could ruin your company’s reputation and cost you hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars – and even a single error, from anyone in your organization, could create an opening for that data breach to occur.
The trouble is that in most workplaces, employees don’t take cybersecurity as seriously as they should.
Why is this the case? And what can you do about it?
Contrary to popular opinion, cybersecurity isn’t just for IT departments and cybersecurity professionals. It’s tempting to think that cybersecurity is just something that technologically savvy people take care of, and that there’s no need for anyone in marketing, accounting, or HR to worry about it.
But this is far from the truth. Most “hackers” and cybercriminals aren’t highly technically skilled, creative geniuses; instead, they’re rudimentary opportunists, looking to take advantage of any easy weaknesses they find. That’s one reason why social engineering tactics have become more prevalent in recent years. If you can convince someone to hand over the username and password to a valuable account, no amount of other security measures will stop you from getting access to the data you want.
The reality is, cybersecurity needs to be everyone’s responsibility.
It’s also easy for employees to underestimate the number of cybersecurity risks and the severity of those risks, pertaining to your business. Most cybersecurity threats are, by definition, invisible.
If you live in an area that is hit by tornadoes every year, and you’ve seen the houses of friends and loved ones damaged by tornadoes, you know how important it is to have tornado insurance and to get to safety during a tornado warning. But if you live in an area where you never see or hear about tornadoes, you may underestimate their destructive power.
If you work for a small business, and you’ve worked there for many years without ever seeing or hearing about a security threat, you might operate with a false sense of security, underestimating the risks or overestimating your level of protection from those risks.
The Company vs. the Individual
Only about 13 percent of people feel they have personal responsibility for employer data and/or work devices – and 48 percent feel they have no obligation for cybersecurity at all. That’s partially because individual people are naturally self-interested. There’s a thick line between the individual and the company they work for, so why should an individual make a concentrated effort to protect the organization?
If you want to overcome this barrier, it’s important to help employees genuinely feel like they’re a part of this organization – and help them understand how much of an impact they have on the organization.
Lack of Training and Education
In many cases, cybersecurity issues with employees are attributable to general ignorance – which itself is attributable to a lack of education and training. If you want your employees to take security seriously, and you want them to employ best practices, don’t roll the dice; provide them with the education, resources, and support they need to do it.
Lack of Leadership
Employees typically mirror their leaders, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously. If you have strong leaders in place who take cybersecurity seriously and always follow best practices, your employees will likely follow in their footsteps. Conversely, if your leaders blow off security recommendations, your employees will likely do the same.
Even small businesses should have thoroughly documented cybersecurity policies and procedures in place. If you don’t have any formal policies, or if the wording of your policies is too ambiguous or hard to discern, your employees won’t care about cybersecurity in any form.
Actionable Steps You Can Take Today
So what steps can you take today if your employees aren’t taking cybersecurity seriously?
· Audit your current strategies. Look at what you have in place, as well as what’s working and what isn’t.
· Review and improve your documentation. What guidelines and instructional documents do you have in place? Are these sufficient?
· Instill (or retrain) excellent leaders. Good cybersecurity habits start at the top and work their way down.
· Provide ample training and education. Everyone on your team should understand their responsibilities and practice good habits.
· Address individual issues as they arise. Mistakes are inevitable. Address individual issues as they arise to guide your employees to proper best practices.
When everyone in your organization prioritizes security, and is willing to act in the best interests of the organization, you’ll all be much better protected. This type of cultural transformation isn’t always easy to oversee, but it’s necessary if you want to mitigate risk, save money, and preserve the integrity of your data.