The complexity of cybersecurity has grown exponentially as the number of interconnectable digital devices has risen. Because interdependent computer infrastructures support almost every organization today, protecting digital data has become crucial.
Thirty-seven percent of CEOs surveyed say significant risk lies within the extended business and key enterprise partners. And preventive measures alone aren’t sufficient anymore. The new environment demands vigilant monitoring and creative innovation. It requires all-stakeholder participation.
The human element is key. How well you vet, train and equip employees will make or break your cybersecurity system, your reputation with customers and partners, and perhaps even your business itself.
While 89 percent of the C-suite believes employees will responsibly safeguard information, 22 percent say their employees are unaware of offsite data policies. Devices most at risk are company cell phones (50 percent), company laptops (45 percent), and USB storage devices (41 percent).
In its report on 2018 Views From the C-Suite, A.T. Kearney found that 85 percent of companies experienced security breaches in the last year. Only 40 percent designed and implemented cybersecurity strategies in response.
In addition to focusing on employees, it’s important to bring the entire supply chain on board. Corporate leaders cite four top tactics to ensure viable cybersecurity:
- Comprehensive information security measures,
- Hiring highly skilled IT professionals,
- Cybersecurity behavior analytics, and
- Employee training programs.
The new paradigm for cybersecurity is involve, convince, educate, convert, and reward. End users are often unfairly stereotyped as uncooperative, control averse, and unwilling to change behavior. At the same time, they are the weakest link in cybersecurity. Even deep technical experts can be as vulnerable as less-trained and prepared regular users.
A real-life example: Years ago, as the CISO of a wireless operator in South America, I was tasked with reducing the rising number of data leaks. A senior executive recommended heavy-handed enforcement of security policies. End-users, he said, had been noncommittal about security, and unresponsive to campaigns to improve internal controls.
I decided to take a contrarian stance. Experience had convinced me that to craft viable solutions, we had to engage all stakeholders — each individual impacted by policies, technologies, and decisions — not just those sitting in boardrooms.
Instead of punishing end-users and focusing solely on enforcing controls, we convened a series of meetings with employees to share best practices, determine their pain points, and give step-by-step guidance on how to properly employ security tools.
It turned out that many security policies were outdated due to a series of mergers. Moreover, users were dealing with a cumbersome 30-day password expiration practice by writing their access codes on Post-It notes. Ill-intentioned people thereby had been gaining unauthorized access.
Based on feedback from employees, we updated policies and rewrote procedures and standards so that they were relevant and clear. Scorecards were used to track progress, and a reward system instituted. Data leaks dropped, and a feedback loop was established between users and the security department to keep the program relevant. End users were brought into the process, with educational loops to spot potential problems.
The experience reconfirmed that a design process that is stakeholder- and human-centered, relying on involving, educating, converting, and rewarding instead of punishing, produces the most comprehensive and sustainable cybersecurity solutions.
J. Eduardo Campos heads the consulting firm of Embedded-Knowledge Inc.