How to Encourage Employees to Treat Cybersecurity Seriously

May 13, 2023

Stronger infrastructure and better cybersecurity tools can keep your organization safer concerning cybersecurity threats. But your security is still dependent on the actions and behaviors of all your employees. Suppose even one employee deviates from cybersecurity best practices by voluntarily revealing their password or leaving a company laptop unattended in a public place. In that case, all your strongest cybersecurity strategies will be for naught.

How can you get those employees to take cybersecurity seriously?

Employees: Your Top Cybersecurity Vulnerability

According to the latest data, about 88 percent of data breaches are caused by employee errors. Already, it’s easy to understand why employees are such a vulnerability for your organization. These are just some of the ways that simple employee errors can wreak havoc on your business:

· Choosing weak or easily guessed passwords. Passwords should be long, complicated, and seemingly random to provide ample security. If one of your employees chooses a weak password or one that’s easy to guess, they could make it easy for an opportunistic criminal to access your systems.

· Giving login credentials to unauthorized parties. Similarly, employees may voluntarily give their login credentials to unauthorized parties. This is often a result of a social engineering scam or a phishing attempt.

· Leaving company devices unattended. If one of your company devices is left unattended, anyone in the vicinity may be able to access information for which they have no authorization. The breacher may not even have technical knowledge or expertise.

· Using unsecured networks. If a company device is being used on an unsecured network with no further security measures, a sufficiently motivated cybercriminal may be able to access it.

· Opening suspicious attachments or using suspicious devices. Most of us know that we shouldn’t open attachments from unfamiliar senders or plug unfamiliar flash drives into our computers. But if one of your employees forgets these rules for a second, it could cause a disaster.

· Misusing cybersecurity tools. If members of your IT team or even individual employees misuse the cybersecurity tools you’ve designed to keep your organization safe, they’ll be rendered functionally useless.

· Launching a malicious internal attack. Don’t forget about the possibility of internal security threats. A disgruntled employee may be motivated to attack your organization from the inside.

How to Encourage Employees to Take Cybersecurity Seriously

So what steps can you take to ensure your employees take cybersecurity seriously and follow all best practices?

· Treat cybersecurity as a top priority across all levels. First, treat cybersecurity as a top priority for your organization across all levels. If your CEO flippantly dismisses cybersecurity or never talks about it, the people beneath them will be less likely to take cybersecurity seriously. All your leaders need to speak to the importance of cybersecurity and reinforce it as a central part of your organizational culture.

· Showcase the consequences of a security breach. Some people neglect cybersecurity simply because they don’t understand how devastating a data breach can be. Highlight examples of companies that have collapsed after a data breach, and express the potential damage that a single attack might have. It can make the threat seem more “real” and worth protecting against.

· Explain cybersecurity topics in plain, abstract language. Some of your employees may neglect cybersecurity not out of apathy or malice but out of confusion or lack of confidence. You can combat this by explaining cybersecurity topics in plain, abstract language that even your least technically inclined employees can understand.

· Host ongoing training and education workshops. Don’t assume your employees will stay current on the latest cybersecurity standards. You need to host ongoing training and education workshops to provide them with this information.

· Keep training sessions brief and to the point. When hosting training and education seminars, keep these sessions brief and to the point. Hosting 10, 20-minute segments is better than hosting a 3+ hour seminar where people become tired and irritable by the end. Maintain attention and motivation by keeping things concise.

· Provide feedback. Finally, be willing to provide feedback to employees who make mistakes or neglect certain cybersecurity principles. Nobody is perfect, but we can all get closer to perfection with actionable, specific feedback. Consider taking disciplinary action if an employee makes repeated mistakes or commits an egregious error.

Cybersecurity is a tricky strategy to manage because it’s not enough to load up on tools and services; you need to ensure that all your staff members are sufficiently trained, educated, and motivated to fulfill their responsibilities. Fortunately, the right environment and proper incentives can make this a reality.


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