Steps to Build Culture of Cybersecurity Awareness

July 17, 2024 by
Mark Nash

Human error is one of the leading causes of cyber threats breaching a business network's security, with it being the cause of an estimated 95% of data breaches. And the leading cause of human error is a lack of cybersecurity awareness. What is to stop someone from accidentally clicking a phishing link or using weak passwords if they don't know any better? Thankfully, there is some good news: while we will never be immune to making mistakes, the dangers of human error can be significantly reduced by building a strong culture of cybersecurity awareness. Think of your organization's cybersecurity as a chain with the links being made by your employees. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, you turn each employee into a strong link, making your organization more secure.

How Do You Build a Culture of Cybersecurity Awareness

Building a culture of cybersecurity awareness doesn't require expensive training programs (although training is important). There are simple steps you can use to encourage your team to learn more about cybersecurity and participate in fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

1. Start with Leadership Buy-in

There is a need for a culture of cybersecurity awareness because cybersecurity is not just an issue for the IT department to take care of by themselves. Everyone needs to be in on cybersecurity, so it makes sense to start from the top with the leadership. When executives champion cybersecurity awareness, participate in cybersecurity training, and create/promote cybersecurity initiatives, it sends a powerful message to the organization.

2. Make Security Awareness Engaging

Cybersecurity training doesn't have to be dry and dull. Using engaging videos and practical scenarios helps keep employees interested in learning. Some examples include interactive practices where employees choose their path through a simulated phishing attack or short animated videos that explain complex security concepts in a clear and relatable way.

3. Ensure Clear Communication

Cybersecurity terminology can be very technical and confusing for newcomers. Technical concepts need to be communicated in plain language, avoiding as much jargon as possible. Much more important than explaining the technical aspects of cybersecurity is informing people of the actions they can take to protect themselves and how it protects them. Don't just tell people to implement multi-factor authentication; explain that it adds an extra layer of security when logging in that stops hacks from compromised passwords.

4. Keep it Short

People can only focus on learning something new for so long before they start to get distracted or simply fail to retain the information. Your employees are much more likely to remember their training if it is presented in short, easily digestible segments. Consider using microlearning approaches throughout the workday to keep employees engaged and reinforce key security concepts.

5. Conduct Phishing Drills

Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways hackers take advantage of a lack of cybersecurity awareness to steal data. Regular phishing drills are an excellent way to train employees on how to recognize phishing attacks and raise their awareness and preparedness. There are programs you can use to send simulated phishing emails and track who falls for them. After a phishing drill, take the opportunity to dissect the email with employees, highlighting the red flags and other signs that they can use to identify it and future phishes as fakes.

6. Make Reporting Easy and Encouraged

It is essential that employees understand how to report suspicious cyber activity and are willing to do so. Employees shouldn't have to fear facing repercussions for reporting a cybersecurity incident, even if it was their fault, as then they may simply choose not to report it, potentially leading to devastating consequences that could have been avoided. Create a simple and safe reporting system and acknowledge reports promptly. Some notable elements that are helpful to include in your reporting system include:

  • A dedicated email address
  • An anonymous reporting hotline
  • A designated security technician employees can approach directly

7. Empower Employees to Become Security Champions

Enthusiastic employees are excellent candidates to become "security champions" who can help answer questions and promote best practices. Consider offering them additional training and resources on cybersecurity that they can share with coworkers. Security champions can be a valuable resource for their colleagues and help keep cybersecurity in everyone's mind. Security champions also do a lot to help employees realize the shared responsibility required for cybersecurity within the organization.

8. Security Beyond the Office

Cybersecurity doesn't stop being important once you leave work at the end of your shift. In addition to training employees on workplace cybersecurity, educate them on how to protect themselves at home. Important tips include securing their Wi-Fi network and avoiding public hotspots when working with sensitive information. Employees who practice good security habits at home are more likely to do so in the workplace.

9. Celebrate Successes

Recognize and celebrate employee achievements in cyber awareness. When someone reports a suspicious email or passes a phishing drill, publicly acknowledge their contributions to keep motivation high. Recognition can be a powerful tool that helps reinforce positive behavior and encourages continued vigilance.

10. Leverage Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool for building a cyber-aware culture. Online training platforms can offer regular microlearning modules. There are services that can send automated phishing simulations regularly to keep employees on their toes. Some additional tools that employees can utilize to improve security include:

The Bottom Line: Everyone Plays a Role

Building a culture of cybersecurity awareness is not a one-and-done kind of thing; you need to promote it continually. It's easy for people to get lax about security without regular training. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, so it's vital that everyone in your organization has the knowledge and tools to keep themselves protected. Empowered employees become your strongest defense against cyber threats.