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Creating a Cybersecurity Culture: Building Awareness from the Ground Up

Data shows that the human factor was involved in more than 74% of data breaches in 2023 so far.

In 2023, cybercrime is set to cost the world an estimated $8 trillion, growing to $10.5 trillion by 2025. That's an unfathomable price tag on a problem that's rapidly becoming everyone's concern​​. It's clear that siloed, policy-driven cybersecurity is insufficient, and there's a pressing need for a shift in mindset – a transition from isolated action to shared responsibility.

This is where the concept of cybersecurity culture comes into play.

As a complete security solutions provider, Evren strongly believes that cybersecurity culture isn't simply about a team drafting a robust policy that gets tucked away in a handbook. It's about embedding security consciousness in every action, every decision, and every member of an organization. It's a collective endeavor, a shared understanding that everyone has a role to play in maintaining a safe digital environment. As MIT Sloan Executive Director of Cybersecurity, Keri Pearlson says, “We need a culture of cybersecurity because you can’t tell everyone everything they need to do.”

In this blog post, we'll be focusing on how to create and nurture such a culture. We'll explore strategies, best practices, and tools needed to collectively achieve cybersecurity.

“A security culture starts with awareness and includes everyone. An organization’s cyber capabilities grow with its employees’ understanding of cyber risks and their personal role and responsibility in helping to manage them.”

Building a Cybersecurity Culture

At the EmTech CyberSecure conference, Pearlson explained that organizations focus their resources on “locking up using technology” but forget about the end-users, or “the back doors in the organization.” Data shows that the human factor was involved in more than 74% of data breaches in 2023 so far.

But what does it mean to have a cybersecurity culture?

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), more mature organizations reinforce cybersecurity culture at three levels: the leadership level, the group level, and the individual level. Each of these levels has distinct focus areas for building a strong cybersecurity culture and a set of best practices to follow.

Leadership Level

Cultivating a cybersecurity culture from the ground up needs the push of initiation to come from the top down on setting the tone and demonstrating a commitment to cybersecurity.

Core Pillars:

  1. Leadership Commitment
  2. Investment in the Right Tools

Best Practices:

  1. Show visible commitment to cybersecurity at all levels of leadership and integrate security objectives into the overall business strategy.
  2. Involve the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in strategic business discussions and decision-making.
  3. Invest in advanced cybersecurity tools that offer robust threat detection and response. Take Evren, for example. Our solution is based on the least privilege principle and includes features such as full disk encryption, multi-factor authentication, central device and application management systems – all of which contribute to establishing a secure environment from the top down.
  4. Vet your vendors and regularly check whether the tools employed can effectively counter the latest threats.
Group Level

At the group level, the emphasis is on creating robust policies, procedures, and communication strategies that can guide the team's cybersecurity efforts and percolate down to the employees. With the help of tools like Evren, organizations can ensure adherence to security regulations and industry-specific requirements, thus avoiding costly penalties and helping in the effective implementation of these policies.

Core Pillars:

  1. Robust Policies and Procedures
  2. Clear and Effective Communication

Best Practices:

  1. Develop clear and comprehensive cybersecurity policies and procedures, and regularly review them to account for changes in cyber threats and regulatory requirements.
  2. Communicate these policies and updates in a clear, jargon-free manner that resonates with all team members.
  3. Discuss cyber risks and precautions regularly at team meetings to ensure everyone is aware of the current cybersecurity landscape.
Individual Level

At the individual level, the focus is on equipping each employee with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to contribute to the organization's cybersecurity.

Core Pillars:

  1. Employee Education and Training
  2. Collective Responsibility

Best Practices:

  1. Conduct regular and comprehensive cybersecurity training sessions for all employees, incorporating real-life scenarios and simulated attacks to make the training more practical and effective.
  2. Ensure that employees are properly trained in using any security tools of relevance to them.
  3. Promote a culture of shared responsibility for cybersecurity, ensuring everyone understands their role in maintaining a secure digital environment.
  4. Encourage employees to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and threats, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Assessing and Measuring Cybersecurity Culture

Creating a cybersecurity culture is not a one-time effort; it requires ongoing assessment and measurement to gauge its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. 

Establishing Baseline Measurements

To evaluate the state of cybersecurity culture within the organization, it is essential to establish a baseline measurement. This provides a starting point for assessing progress and identifying areas of focus. Methods such as surveys and focus groups can be used to gather data and insights from employees at all levels.

Identifying Key Indicators

Assessing cybersecurity culture involves identifying key indicators that provide insights into the organization's security posture. Tracking these indicators is also critical in identifying areas for improvement.

  1. Employee awareness: Measure the level of awareness and understanding of cybersecurity risks and best practices among employees.
  2. Adherence to policies and procedures: Evaluate the extent to which employees comply with established cybersecurity policies and procedures.
  3. Incident reporting: Assess the number and quality of incident reports submitted by employees, indicating their proactive engagement in identifying and addressing potential security incidents.
  4. Security mindset: Gauge the overall security mindset of employees, including their attitudes, behaviors, and willingness to prioritize cybersecurity in their daily activities.
Using Metrics and Analytics

Metrics and analytics play a crucial role in measuring cybersecurity culture. Organizations can leverage data from security tools, training platforms, and incident response systems to track progress, identify trends, and measure the impact of awareness and training programs. For instance, Evren is designed to provide reports and data from device usage, application usage, and system reports for monitoring usage, activities and simplifying compliance reporting.

  1. Training completion rates: Measure the percentage of employees who have completed cybersecurity training programs.
  2. Phishing simulation results: Assess employees' ability to identify and respond to simulated phishing attacks.
  3. Incident response time: Monitor the time it takes for the organization to detect, respond to, and mitigate security incidents.
  4. Employee feedback: Solicit feedback from employees through surveys or feedback channels to gauge their satisfaction with cybersecurity initiatives and identify areas for improvement.
Conducting Regular Assessments

Regular assessments are essential to track changes in cybersecurity culture over time. By conducting periodic assessments, organizations can identify emerging risks, evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives, and inform future strategies. At Evren, we recommend assessments at regular intervals to ensure ongoing monitoring and improvement. This is why the first step in our consultations with prospective clients is a thorough security audit to determine gaps, formulate tailored solutions, and develop a comprehensive cybersecurity roadmap for the company.

Benchmarking and Comparison

Benchmarking cybersecurity culture against industry standards and best practices provides valuable insights into an organization's performance. By comparing their culture to peers and industry leaders, organizations can identify gaps, set targets for improvement, and prioritize initiatives accordingly. Cybersecurity frameworks and maturity models can serve as useful references for benchmarking.

At Evren, we understand that creating a cybersecurity culture requires a holistic approach that addresses various aspects, including mitigating threats, minimizing end-user negligence and data loss, and navigating complex compliances. As a complete endpoint security solution, Evren is a trusted partner that provides the necessary tools and expertise to achieve this goal, while also enabling major cost savings in the long run. 

Ready to take the first step in building a cybersecurity culture in your organization? Let's talk.