In today’s high-technology business world a company must learn to use their internet resources safely and responsibly. There’s just no way around it, with the amount of highly sensitive data stored on company databases, no one can afford to take a relaxed approach to cybersecurity. Unfortunately, year after year we see costly database breaches due to weaknesses in company cybersecurity programs.

So often these incidents could have been prevented by implementing proper employee training. A cybercriminal’s best chance at getting your company’s information is through a poorly trained, poorly motivated employee. You may think that you have some very strong technical safeguards, but these safeguards alone cannot protect your data if your employees do not know how to detect and avoid a cyber attack.

Cybercrime

So what constitutes a cyber attack? These crimes come in many forms, and through more than one vector. A cyberattack may disable or bypass your technical safeguards, such as a firewall or antivirus program.

An employee clicking on a link in an email is one of the most common sources. Opening an unsafe attachment or downloading from an unknown source can result in malware being installed on the affected device. These are common and easily preventable break-ins that should never happen if employees are trained not to open email or download from unknown sources.

A more devious and difficult to detect threat is that of social engineering. This threat involves an employee being tricked over the phone or through email, believing they are communicating with a person they work with, or who works for their company. In these cases valuable information, such as usernames and passwords, is freely given in response to what seems like a reasonable and credible request. Other times money is transferred to a fake bank account by an employee who believes they are being directed by their superior. These incidents can be devastating to a company in terms of financial and reputation loss. Lower your cybersecurity risks by educating and training your employees to identify cyberthreats and avoid them.

Start them early

The best defence against becoming a victim of cybercrime is a staff that has a vigilant attitude towards protecting company databases and other online resources. Make cybersecurity a priority right from the get-go. When you bring a new employee on board, emphasize it as a company priority. By taking this small step you will create a culture of cybersecurity awareness. Making it clear at the outset of employment will help decrease the chances of people building unsafe online habits.

Write a cybersecurity policy

“One of your best tools in lowering your cybersecurity risk is a good cybersecurity policy. Your employees can refer to the policy whenever they are unsure if an action they are about to take on their device is safe and acceptable,” recommends Henry McAvoy, cybersecurity manager at SimpleGrad. A good policy will outline what is considered acceptable use of an employee’s computer and the internet.

It is especially important that the policy makes it clear that sharing credentials is not allowed under any circumstances. Ensure that employees are made aware of the importance of the policy and that violations will be kept track of on their file and can impact their future with the company, up to and including termination.

Get senior leadership on board

If your cybersecurity program is to succeed, you will need support from your senior leadership. Their involvement is crucial because your program will require a budget to cover the staff and hardware/software needed every year. What’s the best way to get leadership involved? Illustrate how much cybersecurity affects your company’s bottom line. A recent study found that a cybersecurity breach, on average, cost the affected company  between 1.2 million and 20.9 million USD. Putting the costs of a breach into these kinds of terms will drive home just how valuable implementing a good cybersecurity plan is.

Increase employee awareness

Educate your employees on safe practices with regard to handling proprietary information, using email, and internet use. Cybercriminals and social engineers are constantly changing and improving their techniques, so it’s critical that your employees are made aware of these new threats. Remember that all staff need this training, not just the ones interacting with customers. You do not want any weak links in your cybersecurity protection. Encourage employee feedback and you may identify new threats and possible ways to counter those threats. Consider holding regular briefings with your staff, including contractors. Use these briefings to remind people what a security threat looks like and update them on recent developments in the field of cybersecurity. You can also discuss incidents that have occurred internally and outside the company. These briefings are also a good time to review your company’s cybersecurity policy.

Test your employees

You’re feeling pretty confident about your policy and your level of employee awareness and training, but you won’t know their effectiveness until they are put to the test. That is why it is important to test your employees’ knowledge. Simulate a threat such as a phishing email. “Have your IT department send out this fake phishing email to all your staff and note who opens it. Take this opportunity to discuss the incident with employees who opened it and find out what lessons can be learned. Also look to see if certain departments had more incidents than others and consider adapting cybersecurity training to individual departments for better results,” suggests Greta Smith, cybersecurity manager at Academized. Share what you have learned from this exercise with the rest of the staff so that they can avoid making the same mistakes.  You may want to consider working with an outside security firm for these sorts of tests. Remember that it takes time to form new habits, so don’t expect changes to happen overnight. It takes 90 days to break a habit and 90 days to form a new one.

Have an advocate

Strive to create a culture of cybersecurity. You want cybersecurity to be something your employees have in mind at all times and not just when attending a meeting on cyber threats. One of the best ways to create this kind of culture is by appointing advocates. These advocates will be responsible for keeping employees trained and motivated. Your IT staff will have plenty of work to do and may not necessarily have the time or aptitude to be your cybersecurity advocate, so consider appointing people from outside that department. You may find it works best to have one person from each department assigned a role as cybersecurity advocate, since each department will likely encounter different cyber threats.

Minimize risk by minimizing access

A key to lowering cybersecurity risks is to minimize access. Continuously ask yourself: “Does this employee need access to X?” Every unnecessary access point is an unnecessary risk. Create employee and contractor profiles that restrict access only to functions they absolutely need. Taking this step will reduce the amount of full access profiles and drastically reduce risk. Implement measures such as: passwords that expire regularly, using software that requires strong passwords, three factor authentication, requiring passcodes on smartphones, and removing access to employees and contractors once they leave the company.

Security at work and at home

The more cybersecurity becomes a habit for you employees, the more resilient your company’s cybersecurity measures will be. You can increase the formation of this habit by emphasizing that cybersecurity is important at home and at work. Every time they practice safe internet and email methods they will be reinforcing a habit that will ultimately make your company’s cybersecurity stronger. Framing cybersecurity as something to be used at home will also drive home to your employees that they too will benefit from practicing it and thus increase compliance and enthusiasm.

Watch out for back doors

Does your company allow limited access to outside parties such as customers, suppliers, and distributors? Many organizations do, and poor management of these access points has resulted in some very serious and costly database breaches. If you are allowing access to a person outside your company, however limited, it is recommended that you insist they practice the same rigid cybersecurity measures as your own employees. These access points seem like a minor risk, especially since they are usually limited, but this can make them an attractive break-in point for cybercriminals so do not neglect them.

Investigate

If your company suffers a breach it is important that the incident is investigated thoroughly. These incidents, though unfortunate, can be a learning experience that will make your cybersecurity more resilient to further attacks. Use the results of your investigation to improve your practices and policy. “The one thing you want to avoid in the aftermath of a breach is a coverup. Use restraint in assigning blame once an incident has occurred to lessen the chance of things being covered up. It’s important that you get all the information possible to improve security,” advises Vincent Hardy, cybersecurity manager at Assignment Help.

Yearly audits

Think of your audit as a report card. Where did your program succeed and where could it use some improvement? A good audit will cover factors such as the number of policy violations, frequency of incorrect passwords, staff participation in cybersecurity briefings, and the thoroughness of incident reports. Complete an audit every year and your cybersecurity program will become more robust and able to counter the ever-changing nature of cyberattacks.

Make cybersecurity fun

Get creative and come up with some fun and interactive ways to get your employees interested in cybersecurity. Put up colorful posters to keep the topic on their mind. Implement a rewards program. Keep track of employees who pass your fake phishing email tests and reward them for their knowledge and diligence. Small incentives can go a long way in motivating employees to keep security in mind and look out for the company’s interests.

Lower your risk

The threat of cybercrime is not going anywhere and will continue to be a headache for companies that do not make it a priority. Your best defense against a cyberattack is proper employee training. Impress on your new employees just how important cybersecurity is to the company, and that it will be one of the most important aspects of their work.

Introduce them to your company’s cybersecurity policy and encourage them to refer to it when they have doubts. Bring your senior leadership on board; when they are made aware of just how costly a cyberattack can be financially, they will make preventing one a top priority.

Educate your employees on what a cyber threat looks like and what they should do if they encounter one. Put their knowledge to the test and have your IT department conduct some “live fire” exercises, sending fake phishing emails out to the staff.

Discuss the results with employees so that they can learn and improve in the future. Do your best to make cybersecurity fun and reward employees when they improve and excel at it.

Appoint cyber security advocates who can focus on keeping their coworkers trained and motivated. Minimize risks by only allowing employees access to databases and programs that they absolutely need for their job.

Emphasize that cybersecurity is important for computer use at home as well and you will see increased compliance and proficiency. Keep track of outside parties who have access to your databases and insist they maintain the same rigorous cybersecurity rules as your staff.

Investigate thoroughly whenever there is an incident and conduct yearly audits to gauge how well your programs and training are working. Social engineers and other criminals are constantly adapting their methods of gaining access to your information, so keep informed about new developments and adapt your training program and cybersecurity policy regularly.

Your security is only as good as the employees who maintain it, so give them the tools and information they need to keep your resources secure.

Author Bio: Grace Carter proofreads content at Revieweal and UK writing service review, she works on structure and formatting there. Also, she tutors at Australian Help service. Get help with your writing from professional services such as UKWritings and Essay roo. Polish your effort with proofreading services like Eliteassignmenthelp.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes.For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive.Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City.He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.