Here are some best practices that IT leaders can take to instill a security-first mindset and foster an environment where every team member understands their role.

Ben Herzberg, Chief Scientist, Satori

September 18, 2023

4 Min Read
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Digitalization and business process automation made our businesses extremely productive. However, our reliance on data comes with risk, creating the need for a proactive cybersecurity culture.

This culture does not just materialize out of thin air -- it has to be carefully crafted, nurtured, and driven by IT leaders.

Let’s explore steps and best practices that IT leaders can take to instill a security-first mindset and build an environment where every team member understands their role in safeguarding the organization's digital assets.

Instilling a Security-First Mindset

The cybersecurity landscape is constantly shifting. Behind every corner, there is someone trying to figure out a new way to exploit your bad internal security practices. The simplest way to defend against that is to keep cybersecurity top-of-mind.

As an IT leader, you must embody the security principles you wish to instill in your teams. Prioritize and demonstrate a commitment to security in daily activities as they will set a tone for the entire organization.

How long ago was your last security briefing? Did you ask your team to double-check data compliance and security practices for that new email software the marketing team decided to implement? This type of visible commitment communicates the importance of security to the entire staff.

Creating a security-first culture requires actionable strategies: regular security updates, transparent discussions of incidents, open channels for security questions and concerns, and consistent enforcement of existing security policies.

Implementing Comprehensive Training Programs

Cybersecurity sounds so advanced. However, we are still some time away from watching our AI trying to defend our data from another AI. Most breaches -- up to 74% according to Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigation Report -- still happen because of human errors.

Secure password management, the use of encrypted connections, and the ability to recognize phishing attempts should all be part of a comprehensive list of cybersecurity practices that all employees must know. Further, automating data access controls ensure that employees are not overprivileged but still have streamlined data access.

Training should be engaging and memorable to be effective. Unfortunately, ‘engaging’ and  ‘memorable’ are not the terms people often associate with cybersecurity training. But they could -- if you’re willing to put in the effort.

You could try the following:

  • Simulate common scenarios, like phishing attacks, to help participants experience potential threats firsthand. This is also a great chance to reiterate which steps to take in the event of a breach.

  • Organize a live demonstration of how a cyberattack occurs or how a specific security tool works in order to make abstract security concepts easier to understand.

  • Combine e-learning platforms and gamification to make learning more interactive and competitive.

  • Invite an external security expert for a guest lecture or workshop focused on real-world experiences and emerging trends.

Whichever methods you choose, you’ll probably need to supplement them with periodic quizzes and assessments to reinforce best practices and identify areas where additional training might be needed. This is especially important in organizations that experience high employee turnovers, with new workers not having the privilege of attending your awesome cybersecurity workshops.

Setting Internal Rules to Minimize Cybersecurity Risks

More often than not, the problem is not the lack of internal rules, it’s the lack of enforcement.

CIOs have a lot of authority, but getting buy-in from all stakeholders is easier said than done. Still, you must work with everyone to ensure alignment with business goals and compliance requirements.

At the very least, you can use regular audits and monitoring to enforce the most basic rules. For example, if you implement two-factor authentication across all systems, regularly audit access logs to detect unauthorized access attempts.

Another challenge is that cybersecurity is a moving target. Internal rules must evolve to stay ahead of emerging risks.

For instance, a financial institution will want to regularly update its firewall rules in response to new types of financial fraud. This could involve blocking traffic from known malicious IP addresses, implementing stricter email filtering to catch phishing attempts, or enhancing intrusion detection systems to recognize new malware signatures.

Parting Thoughts

When it’s all said and done, creating a strong cybersecurity culture will hinge on your ability to set clear internal rules and ensure they are consistently followed and updated.

Remember that it is a never-ending process and that some practices can’t change overnight. However, with enough persistence and some creative training approaches, you should be able to bring cybersecurity awareness to a satisfactory level. 

About the Author(s)

Ben Herzberg

Chief Scientist, Satori, Satori

Ben is an experienced tech leader and book author with a background in endpoint security, analytics, and application & data security. Ben filled roles such as the CTO of Cynet, and Director of Threat Research at Imperva. Ben is the Chief Scientist for Satori, the DataSecOps platform.

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