6 Great Tips to Educate Your Employees on Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is something of a hot topic at the moment. As we’ve noted in the past, robust online security is business-critical, and the onus is on every business to take it seriously.

Between hacks, spam, ransomware, and all the other online threats out there, there are more than 2,200 cyberattacks each and every day – that works out to one every 39 seconds!

It’s widely accepted that no business is utterly impervious to cyberattacks. So when even the likes of Microsoft and Acer are subject to successful attacks, smaller companies may feel like they don’t stand a chance. However, prudent defenses throughout the business can reduce risk and minimize impact – and it’s not just the IT team’s responsibility.

The most resilient small businesses make it clear to all employees that they all have a part to play in keeping their company’s data safe. Here are six great tips to promote a responsible approach throughout the business.

1. Focus on Consistent Messaging

Cyberattacks represent one of the most significant business risks out there today. You probably have policies and plans in place for disaster recovery and risk management, and cybersecurity deserves the same level of attention.

It’s ideal to develop a plan of what to do in the event of a cyberattack and steps that every employee from the top down should take as part of their daily routine. If everyone knows what they should do in any situation, they will receive the proper support and know where to turn should the situation escalate.

2. Don’t Forget the “Why”?

Beyond the IT department, most employees aren’t cybersecurity experts. Depending on their role, they may not even be particularly technically proficient.

A list of instructions may not be enough to get everyone on board. Instead of focusing solely on what to do and when, ensure that you educate employees on the “why” of cybersecurity.

Don’t present plans as more red tape and bureaucracy. Instead, ensure that everyone knows why you have strict IT security policies in place and give them the autonomy to carry out their duties with the company’s best interests in mind.

3. Encourage Secure Autonomy Across Devices

The days of eight hours in a cubicle are behind us for the most part. Modern employees at all stages of their career often rely on a combination of desktops, tablets, laptops, and phones to get the job done. They and their management team need to be aware that any unprotected device can represent the Achilles’ heel of even the best thought out security policies.

You probably already have device policies in place. Whether employees can use their equipment for both professional and personal use is down for you. Likewise, your company has likely already decided whether workers need to use a VPN when accessing your data remotely.

Now might be a great time to revise those policies where necessary. It’s also an opportunity to inform employees that you’re not trying to restrict them, but you’re attempting to protect the company’s integrity.

Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with device freedom to a certain extent. If someone wants to browse Facebook on their work computer or play Freecell Challenge on their lunch break, that should be their prerogative.

With their refreshed training and education around cybersecurity, it’s possible to have more faith in employees to use their devices safely and responsibly.

4. Outline the Signs of Suspicious Activity

Social engineering is prevalent among those that carry out cyberattacks. Non-technical employees are often a weaker link than automated defenses. A would-be attacker would have no qualms about taking advantage of naivety and inexperience to access a network.

It’s therefore imperative to ensure that even the least technical employees have some understanding of the warning signs that accompany cyberattacks. At a time when even your own suppliers can represent the weak link in your cybersecurity efforts, imparting a working knowledge of potential flaws and risks in every employee can be extremely valuable.

5. Encourage Questions and Critical Thinking

As touched on previously, understanding the reason behind cybersecurity policies is part of the battle. Let employees know that if they are unsure about something in the policy or spot something that doesn’t seem quite right, there are no stupid questions.

By promoting an open culture around IT, the entire company could benefit from one employee’s observations.

6. Make Cybersecurity an Ongoing Priority

Some companies treat training and education as a box-checking exercise. For example, it may be company policy to hold a particular certification. The training may take an hour, and then it’s complete. That’s fine for things that never change, such as operating a specific piece of equipment.

However, the demands of cybersecurity constantly evolve. Nobody in the world has all the answers. There are entire teams of experts working each day in an attempt to stay a step ahead of attackers – and even they can fall behind.

Whether it involves a weekly email bulletin, quarterly meetings, or ad hoc discussions, it’s important not to treat cybersecurity as a set-and-forget exercise. As demands change, so should your approach and that of your employees.

In Conclusion

Whether you have one employee or a million, the automated nature of cyberattacks means that no company is immune. It’s all about how you prepare and, if the worst happens, how you react. Your employees represent a vital line of defense against these attacks, and it is up to management to ensure they have the knowledge and tools required to help the business to thrive.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.