Cultivating a Cybersecurity Culture: Making Safety the Norm

Your people are the real core of your cybersecurity strategy. Though the technologies you implement play an important role, not a single one will save you from attack if your staff can’t spot and respond to it.

A truly cyber-resilient organization is one with a strong security-first culture. This four-step approach helps you create a collectively cyber-conscious team.

What is a Cyber-Secure Culture?

Just like geographic regions, businesses and institutions tend to act on common beliefs and attitudes shared among the group. Otherwise known as culture.

Workplaces that are said to have a culture of cybersecurity share certain elements, namely: “knowledge, assumptions, norms and values” that lead to cybersecurity-conscious behaviors among the entire organizational workforce.

According to PA Consulting Group, “[t]hese are shaped by the goals, structure, policies, processes, and leadership of the organization.”
In essence, it’s a top down and bottom-up approach to heeding security best practices.

Why Collective Cyber-consciousness is so Essential

There are only two options when it comes to your cyber culture: a resilient one and a vulnerable one. Those who fail to unanimously make cybersafety a priority risk everything.

And while it’s true that cybercriminals target organizations of all sizes, larger enterprises usually come with larger attack surfaces. With more employees to potentially scam, it’s exceedingly critical to have your entire team operating from a security-first place.

If not, you risk hackers finding the weak links in your security chain. Given that 82% of data breaches in 2021 involved a “human element,” the bulk of your cyber defenses are dependent on the behaviors of each individual.

Increased risk aside, data breaches can also set your organization back financially. From ransomware payments and reputation cleanup efforts to class-action lawsuits, these incidents can be a drain on your monetary and productivity resources.

Statistics from these remediation efforts are staggering:

66% of organizations have been hit with a ransomware attack.
The average ransomware payout increased from $812,380 in 2022 to $1,542,333 in 2023.
The average cost to recover from the lost reputation and investments that follow a ransomware attack is $1.82 million — not including the ransom.
The average total cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million.

Once a breach has been announced, many companies see a downward trend in the amount consumers are willing to pay for their goods and services. The lost market share can spook future investors, decrease business valuation, and make acquiring new customers (or retaining them) more expensive.

Cultivating a Cybersecurity Culture

4 Building Blocks of a Strong Cybersecurity Culture

Cyber-secure work cultures don’t happen by accident. They need to be intentionally built and cultivated.

To drive cybersecurity as a top priority at every level of your organization, implement some version of the following:

Frame cybersecurity as everyone’s responsibility. Your security policies and procedures should be added to your employee handbook and modeled by leadership. Infuse best practices into as many conversations as possible by regularly sending out helpful reminders and cyber news events. These helps ensure safety stays top of mind as a shared value.
Encourage high levels of accountability. Cyber-trainings need to be as critical to the job as any core task. Individuals should view these as not just mandatory but essential to their work. As a step further, you may create cross-departmental “security culture ambassadors” who can run internal cybersafety campaigns or act as a liaison between IT and non-technical teams.
Make incidents easy to report. The more comfortable employees are reporting suspicious activities, the more likely you are to prevent breaches and damages. Simplify and streamline the process wherever possible. Consider giving employees a cheat sheet where they can quickly look up who to contact or which procedure to follow. This might include user-friendly safety forms or a designated incident inbox.
Incentivize with positive reinforcement. Celebrate employees for reporting suspicious behaviors or incidents that are out of the ordinary. You may gamify your cyber-trainings or offer prizes for completion. Some organizations also add this as an element on the annual review, offering bonuses for demonstrated cyber-safety efforts.

Essentially, you’ll never regret nurturing a solid cybersecurity culture. When your people step up as the protectors of your business, everyone wins.