Cybersecurity is a complex undertaking for organizations across various industries. In today’s digital economy where sensitive information is at stake, stolen personal data have soared in value on the dark web. Hackers regularly exploit the weakest links of any given system for control and profit. The biggest vulnerability, in most cases, are people—the hardest to control and secure.
Employees are your highest cybersecurity risk in a sense that they unknowingly provide multiple attack surfaces, revealing opportunities for breach by hackers, whose means of deception get more sophisticated all the time. Every employee must realize that even a minor mistake can snowball into a terrible security disaster for the company. They need to understand that your business’ cybersecurity is also their responsibility.
Thankfully, you can transform your business’ biggest cybersecurity risk into your best defense against threats by developing a cybersecurity culture that includes defining policies and procedures, continuously testing them, educating staff and religiously practicing cyber hygiene for improved security operations.
1. Information Security Policies
The truth is anyone can become a victim of data breaches. The costs of recovering your compromised data can be greater than taking proactive measures to prevent breaches from occurring in the first place.
Protecting your organization’s most valuable asset requires far more than an IT security program. A well-documented information security policy should lay out instructions for safeguarding assets, including data, application, endpoint, network and perimeter security.
Cybercriminals work methodically to breach an initial layer of security and then use this access to hack deeper into the system. Creating multiple layers of defense through infrastructure partnership, configuration setup, software development processes and testing and monitoring can help ensure adequate protection.
People store hundreds—if not thousands—of small tasks a day in their heads. That means decisions can be compromised by emotions or forgetfulness or a number of other unforced errors. And policies that help people automate cybersecurity functions, such as identity and privileged access, for example, can help mitigate the frequency of incidents.
2. Social Engineering Awareness
It often begins as a seemingly harmless email, a call from a friend, or a text from a trusted organization. It appeals to your emotions and it wins your trust. And then, before you know it, they’ve got you. They’ve gained access to your network. They’ve stolen your data. And they’ve made off with your trade secrets, your contacts and your reputation.
Cyber criminals are also very adept at mimicking company leadership for the purpose of sending “urgent,” falsely labeled emails or spear-phishing emails to gain access to key systems. In short, they know how to elicit specific behaviors and prey on our emotions to respond to situations, especially ones that are stressful.
You can install firewalls and anti-phishing tools, update your anti-virus software and set your spam filters to high — but that will only get you so far. A seasoned social engineer can bypass all of that with a simple phone call.
Train employees to spot social engineering scams. When it comes to protecting your business from social engineering, security awareness training is your best line of defense. It helps your employees recognize potential threats and take action to prevent an attack. But in order for the training to work, you need to schedule it regularly — especially if your business has a high rate of turnover.
Businesses can perform many different types of checkups, but a crucial yet often ignored one is a phishing simulation within the organization. 85 percent of data breaches are caused by human error and employees often, unwittingly, make mistakes that compromise security. A phishing simulation identifies employees who may be susceptible to phishing attacks and provides training on how to avoid them.
The most secure organizations run phishing email simulations on their unsuspecting employees to test if they recognize the malicious emotional-engineering tactics of hackers. Every employee should be tested on a continual basis with various organization-run phishing simulations, including whaling, bait and switch, clickjacking and impersonation, to name a few. Ultimately, employees who are regularly confronted with these simulations become less likely to respond to an attack.
However, when staff members fall prey to a phishing simulation, beware not to cause undue concern, shame or panic if they’ve “failed” or been “called out.” Instead, offer a calm and measured post-mortem analysis for why they clicked on the bad link, how they were tricked, and what all participants can learn to educate the entire team. The focus should be maintaining a heightened awareness against a variety of threats.
Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility
IT teams in most organizations are stretched beyond their limits. They have to take care of support requests and make sure data and digital assets are safe and secure. Train employees to develop hyper vigilance online in order to competently deal with common and emerging cyber threats themselves.
Training also takes time and repetition — especially for new skills or procedures. Fiercely protect the training budget, prioritize time for training, and create opportunities for everyone — from basic users to the pros, to apply what they have learned.