Building a Cybersecurity Culture That Mitigates Risks

Published September 26, 2023
by Dave Stenger

In today’s cloud-based business environment, a strong cybersecurity culture is essential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Employee training and awareness programs focused on appropriate tools, technology, and best practices are integral to the cybersecurity posture puzzle. However, these efforts alone often don’t go far enough to mitigate risks. According to Keri Pearlson, executive director of Cybersecurity at MIT Sloan School of Management, it takes a combination of technology investment and culture change to influence individuals’ values, attitudes, and beliefs about cybersecurity throughout every level of an organization. It requires active steps such as implementing strong company-wide security policies and comprehensive employee training, as well as forming the proper partnerships and investing in cybersecurity initiatives.

What is Cybersecurity Culture?

Cybersecurity culture refers to the collective company mindset, practices, and procedures that prioritize the protection of digital assets and infrastructure from cyber threats. It involves the technical measures and protocols and the cultivation of a security-conscious mindset among leadership and all employees. 

Establishing a culture of cybersecurity is not just about protecting a business’s private data and sensitive information; it also plays a crucial role in gaining and maintaining customer trust and loyalty. In today’s digital age, customers are increasingly concerned about the security of their personal information. By demonstrating a strong commitment to cybersecurity, organizations can reassure customers that their data is safe and create a competitive advantage leading to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and, ultimately, business growth. Overall, cybersecurity culture encompasses a holistic approach to combating cyber threats, involving a combination of employee education, risk assessment, and proactive measures to minimize risk. 

Three Keys to Establishing a Strong Cybersecurity Culture

1. Start at the Top to Build a Company-Wide Culture

Organizations with a mature cybersecurity posture reinforce their risk mitigation culture at every level, starting from the very top. Company leadership and executives can’t expect employees to prioritize cybersecurity concerns if management doesn’t lead by example to clarify that strong cybersecurity is a core value. When proper cybersecurity behaviors are consistently demonstrated and reinforced by executives, including those who may not have a primary focus on cybersecurity, it creates a strong cybersecurity awareness throughout the organization. This awareness permeates different company groups and departments, ultimately influencing individuals’ day-to-day actions. By integrating cybersecurity into the organization’s culture and making it a shared responsibility, employees become more vigilant and proactive in identifying and addressing potential security risks.

2. Communicate Clear Expectations and Train All Employees

To establish a strong cybersecurity culture within an organization, it is crucial to effectively communicate relevant information, policy changes, and expectations to employees. Clear communication means ensuring all employees understand expectations and their importance in maintaining the company’s cybersecurity. One of the primary goals of communicating cybersecurity information is to educate employees about potential threats that the organization may face, such as phishing scams, malware, and social engineering tactics. By providing employees with this knowledge, they can better recognize and avoid potential cybersecurity breaches. Setting clear expectations regarding employees’ roles and responsibilities in cybersecurity is crucial. Outline the specific actions and behaviors expected of employees to safeguard sensitive information. For example, employees may be required to update passwords regularly, use only secure networks, and report any suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities. By clearly communicating these expectations, employees can better understand their individual roles in maintaining a secure environment and productive cybersecurity culture.

3. Conduct Regular Testing and Evaluations

In addition to consistent updates from leadership or a designated cybersecurity culture executive, companies and employees can benefit from exercises that test cybersecurity incident awareness and readiness capabilities. Drills that mimic real-world phishing attacks or social engineering tactics help employees stay vigilant and recognize what should happen in the event of an actual cybersecurity incident. Encourage making the results of such exercises and other cybersecurity culture engagement part of employees’ formal evaluations. Relevant rewards and consequences can help keep cybersecurity culture in mind for employees positioned on the proverbial front line of potential cyberattacks. 

Align Your SME with Partners Prioritizing Cybersecurity 

Creating a culture of strong cybersecurity is essential for businesses of all sizes, and it is especially important for SMEs that may lack the resources of larger corporations, which makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The RAMPxchange marketplace gives SMEs and organizations in the public and private sectors access to trusted and capable cybersecurity partners. Contact us today to learn more, join the coalition, and begin your business’s journey to a stronger, contagious cybersecurity culture.