When it comes to protecting your company with cybersecurity, your first impulse might be to task IT or hire an infosec leader or consultant to handle it all for you. But that's not exactly the right strategy. By thinking of cybersecurity as someone else's problem to solve, you'll create even more problems for your company.
To build the best line of defense for your business, you need to take a communal approach to your cybersecurity strategy. Cybercrime is modern crime; there is no silver bullet. That's why everybody within your company needs to be a cyberdefender.
What does it mean to build an all-hands-on-deck cybersecurity strategy, and how feasible is it? Focus on these three key principles to get your whole team on board with your cyberdefender program.
1. Set expectations that everyone is responsible for ensuring the organization's cybersecurity.
First, embrace the mindset that cybersecurity isn't the sole responsibility of your IT team. It's built into the company's DNA, and each individual within the organization must be responsible for following best practices, from student interns up to the CEO and board of directors.
- Set the expectation from the outset that everyone is accountable – not only for keeping their own work secure, but for providing support to others when needed and correcting fellow employees who take risks with security.
- Take the time to explain policies and expectations as part of employee onboarding. It's a great way to set the cybersecurity tone for the organization from day one.
- On an ongoing basis, managers should set a good example by participating in training, following the rules and regularly bringing up cybersecurity with their teams. This also means establishing an environment of trust, transparency and encouragement. Since becoming a cyber-smart defender is a new concept for many, it's important to share with everyone why cybersecurity is so important, what the risks are in everyday work life, and what steps the organization is taking to improve its posture.
Keep in mind that any instances of poor cyber-hygiene don't need to be immediately reprimanded. Instead, they should serve as teachable moments. For example, when an employee brings up a potential cybersecurity incident, taking the conversation from "you shouldn't have done that" to "thank you for letting me know" can go a long way in building trust and transparency.
If an employee does something right, recognize it by sending a message to your team: "Big thank-you to Ashley – she found a USB drive left in the conference room and brought it to IT to be scanned!"
Your goal should be to develop the "if you see something, say something" mentality. Cybersecurity is a top-to-bottom, all-departments commitment. Get buy-in from everyone on your team that they'll do their best to follow, encourage and enforce good habits across the board.
2. Build ongoing security training into every single job description.
To make your employees the best cybersecurity defenders they can be, make sure that cybersecurity training doesn't just mean watching a half-hour video that they'll forget by lunchtime. To truly embrace a cybersecurity mindset, they need to know not just how to ensure security, but why they're taking the steps that they are.
- Educate your team. Focus on building in regular cyber-education sessions, which can include online training modules, newsletters, and articles and videos that focus on addressing new threats or optimizing cybersecurity best practices.
- Encourage collaborative training. Use peer-supported, in-person training activities that allow co-workers to critique one another's responses to a mock scenario.
- Take it offline. You can even go as far as including fun and educational cybersecurity posters around the office to indicate how important a topic it truly is, and to remind everyone that cybersecurity shouldn't be out of sight, out of mind.
Employing quality training content will encourage discussion and promote engagement. The more often everyone thinks and talks about cybersecurity in their day-to-day jobs, the more easily we can provide the right responses.
3. Alert everyone to external risk factors.
Your business doesn't operate in a vacuum, so it's important to ensure that all of your employees recognize and can protect against external risks that could compromise the business's cybersecurity.
- Send regular reminders about cybersecurity threats, whether it's a new take on a phishing email or a specific kind of attack targeting your industry.
- Discuss the dangers of downloading files from third-party vendors or providing them with network access.
- Be clear about company policy and expectations around employees downloading non-work-related software to their computers and mobile devices or allowing friends and family members access to their equipment.
- Put it in writing. In the modern workforce, companies should have a technology and data use policy, as it's critical for employees to understand what they can and can't do with company equipment, whether on company time or theirs.
All that said, your employees shouldn't go it alone. It can be enormously helpful to bring in outside help to manage the cybersecurity ecosystem, perform assessments, audit security risks, and strategize best practices that your team should embrace. But such guidance is merely advice – it's up to you and your team to implement the steps to safeguard your company and check each other's work along the way. Build an ongoing culture of defense, and you'll have an entire army helping you protect your organization every day. After all, cybersecurity is a posture, not a project.