If you are a looking for a challenge, try to spin the IT security breaches and hacks of 2017 in a positive light. In a year defined by a slew of high-profile data breaches and attacks, companies that survived 2017 unscathed should count their lucky stars.

 

Cost of cyber attack
Source: Lloyd and Juniper

2018, though, is a new year. While there is no evidence that suggests that this year will not be worse than last, the new year gives companies the opportunity to revamp their IT security strategy and infrastructure.

First, and foremost, maintaining a high-quality IT security perimeter (firewalls, updated security software, etc) is obviously critical to securing your company.

However, IT security is not exclusive to perimeter defense, given that IT security threats aren’t exclusively external. Your employees represent a crucial factor in your company’s security, and can either act as security strengths or weaknesses to your company.

IT security among employees

 

A well-trained and educated employee base is a security asset able to detect potentially dangerous scenarios and  respond to IT security incidents. However, employees with little to no awareness of IT security threats or policy represent massive security liabilities.

To ensure your company’s employees fall more under the former category rather than the latter, you need to establish an inside-out approach to IT security that encourages IT security awareness throughout your employee base.

An inside-out approach to security entails a culture of security within a company that is fostered and encouraged by the leaders and permeated throughout its ranks.

Employees Lack IT Security Policy and Threat Awareness

Companies struggle with IT security awareness among their employees; approximately half of entry-level employees are uncertain whether their company has a cybersecurity policy, according to recent research from Clutch.

The same research indicates that approximately two-thirds of employees also don’t know whether the number of IT security threats their companies face will change in 2018 compared to 2017.

 

IT security awareness among employees

To encourage IT security awareness, companies need to emphasize improvement and investment in these two areas.

Security Policy and Training Paramount in Era of Heightened Security Risk

The first step to combating IT security threats and ensuring employee contribution to threat prevention is through establishing an IT security or cybersecurity policy (if you haven’t already).

Ciklum CIO Stephen Scott-Douglas weighed in on the benefits of simply having a policy in place in Clutch’s report, particularly the security consciousness a policy can awaken throughout a company.

Stephen Scott-Douglas

Stephen Scott-Douglas, Ciklum CIO

“The sheer act of taking the time to put in place a policy … is the first step in going from the unconscious incompetence debate around [security] to building your competence, to being aware of the threats and taking those threats very seriously.”

Beyond simply having a policy in place, though, your company needs to establish a base level of security knowledge for all of its employees. Some companies, though, tend to limit or tier the level of security training they provide based on employee position, treating higher-ranking employees as higher security priorities.

Instead, companies should provide training for all employees through security onboarding programs in order to establish a standard of security compliance and awareness.


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IT Security Awareness Flows from Top of Organization

The benefits of establishing an IT security policy, or any sort of security program, cannot be fully realized unless that policy and its components are communicated throughoughtly regularly throughout an organization.

Oftentimes, higher-ranking and decision-making employees, who may excel at establishing policy, may fall short of ensuring that it is communicated and understood among employees at all levels.

Stephen Scott-Douglas

Stephen Scott-Douglas, Ciklum CIO

“More aware [employees] at the senior level believe in their own gospel a bit too much. They’ve put a policy in place. They’ve told people the policy exists. The expectation is that it will permeate through the organization and everyone will think it’s important, but I think it sometimes gets lost”

Prioritizing communication at all levels of a company maintains employee awareness of IT security threats and policies over time, which allows them to contribute and establish positive contribution to your company’s security.

Promote Employee Awareness to Enhance IT Security

IT security threats will continue to become noxious and urgent for companies to address.

Beyond a solid security perimeter, companies should promote holistic security through investing in their internal resources and employees.

Stephen Scott-Douglas

Stephen Scott-Douglas, Ciklum CIO

“When IT security knowledge is concentrated among high-ranking employees, it increases the chance that the company does not communicate its IT security policy clearly.

The effort of implementing and maintaining a cybersecurity policy helps a company transition from incompetence to awareness.”

Building security using an inside-out approach encourages IT security awareness among your employees, which allows them to serve as security assets, rather than liabilities, for your company.

Author: Grayson Kemper is a Senior Content Developer at Clutch, a leading B2B research and reviews firm based in Washington, DC. He specializes in IT services research and writing.

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