The biggest threats to your company’s cybersecurity are not the dark, hooded figures that have come to represent hackers on TV commercials. In fact, neither are they actual hackers.
Your employees represent vulnerable parties that can be exploited for unauthorized access to your company systems.
Through lack of security awareness, uninformed or careless mistakes, and failure to comply with company cybersecurity policy, employees can act as gateways that result in data breaches and cyberattacks against your company.
That being said, it is possible for your company to reduce the security threats your employees pose. In fact, with the proper approach, your employees can actually proactively and positively contribute to your company’s cybersecurity.
Starting with including cybersecurity awareness and policy introduction as part of your employee onboarding process, and followed up by continuous and engaging compliance training, your company can curb your employees vulnerability and turn them into security assets.
Introduce Cybersecurity During Employee Onboarding
Employee onboarding is the most impressionable time that you have with your employees: It is the chance to introduce, teach, and begin to instill your company values, policies, and culture.
Cybersecurity needs to be included as part of this process. Doing so impresses upon your employees that cybersecurity is a company priority equal to other core business processes that you include as part of their onboarding.
Your onboarding programs need to be comprehensive and should both introduce and explain everything that falls within your company’s cybersecurity policy.
These programs should include:
- The elements of your cybersecurity policy, such as personal device regulations, e-mail and computer password parameters, and network access policy.
- How to comply with policy and the resources they have at their disposal to ensure their compliance (IT help desk, HR liaison, how to access policy on company network).
- How to report security incidents, even if those incidents are caused by their own error. I suggest that you adopt a (limited) amnesty policy for employees who self-report their violations. It is much more important that you are aware of your security vulnerabilities than it is to reprimand employees for lack of compliance.
Keep in mind that just because something may seem obvious about your company policy does not mean you should not explain it. Your onboarding needs to focus on education, and you should err on the side of overeducating as opposed to leaving anything to assumptions.
Design Consistent Security Awareness and Compliance Training
To keep your employees engaged and compliant with your cybersecurity policy, you need to stress both awareness and consistent practice.
First, security awareness needs to play a significant role in how you design and amend your cybersecurity policy. The cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly evolving. Your policy should evolve correspondingly.
Since your policy will constantly shift, you need to consistently keep your employees aware of topical cybersecurity threats and compliance practices. If your employees are not aware of your company’s most vulnerable IT services or most significant cybersecurity threats, it’s to expect them to fully comply with your policy.
“Consistent training” does not mean once-a-year seminars or company-wide meetings. These are both ineffective and a waste of time.
Schedule periodic meetings to review policy updates and inform your employees about eminent threats and the best methods to secure against them.
One effective way of consistently practicing policy awareness and training is to design quarterly tests or exercises that break down the current status of your policy and company security in a palatable manner.
Engage Employees With Security Policy Through Appreciation
A primary challenge associated with consistent awareness and compliance training is keeping your employees engaged. It is a lot to ask your employees to both attend or complete multiple cybersecurity-related training sessions per year and to follow that up with constant awareness of security threats and policy compliance.
While it’s okay to have high expectations for your employees, you should not take their efforts for granted. Couple your high expectations with high appreciation of their efforts.
You can show appreciation for your employees’ policy awareness and compliance in a couple of ways:
- Solicit their feedback: Learn what your employees think about your policy and its feasibility. Their insight can be incredibly valuable to understanding how realistic your policy is for a modern workforce and the main pain points they experience complying with your policy.
- Provide incentive for compliance: There’s nothing wrong with enticing your employees to engage with your cybersecurity policy through some form of incentive. Examples of incentive are gamifying your policy training and compliance, in which companies receive some sort of reward for identifying security threats or solving security tests.
Each of these approaches recognize your employees’ efforts, which is crucial to keeping them engaged with security policy. You need to rely on your employees to not jeopardize your company security. Taking an appreciative approach will be better for enthusiasm and engagement.
Train and Engage Your Employees to Benefit Your Cybersecurity
Just because employees can be security vulnerabilities to your IT services and cybersecurity does not resign them to that fate.
Your employees can also be security assets: aware, compliant, and engaged parties that contribute positively to the overall security of your company.
To achieve this, it’s important that your company introduces and integrates cybersecurity training as part of employee onboarding. That way, you can instill cybersecurity as a priority equal to other core business processes.
Follow up your onboarding with consistent awareness and policy compliance training and exercises to ensure that they follow cybersecurity best practices over time. Your company policy needs to evolve with cyber security threats. Your training and awareness programs should evolve correspondingly.
In addition, seek employee feedback to understand how your employees practically apply your company policy. Don’t hesitate to incentive their engagement either – secure behavior driven by ulterior motivation is preferable to dangerous or risky behavior any day of the week.
|Grayson Kemper is a Senior Content Developer at Clutch, a research and reviews platform for B2B marketing and tech services. He specializes in IT services research.|