Creating a Company Culture for Security: 6 Step Actionable Strategy

Your essential guide to building a robust security culture. How to implement effective training, policies, and recognition systems to mitigate human cyber risk.

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💡 DID YOU KNOW? Research by IBM Security estimates that 95% of data breach incidents are caused by employee mistakes.

Employees can make or break your organization's security posture...

But they're generally considered to be where most organization's security gaps lie.

A strong cybersecurity culture means meeting compliance regulations, training your employees and encouraging good habits - which can take serious time and resources.

Below, we'll break down exactly how security teams can lay the groundwork for a sustainable security culture that results in real, tangible behavior change.

Importance of security culture: why does it matter?

The threat landscape is always evolving...

Building a strong security culture is essential for mitigating cyber risks, complying with regulations and preserving your organization's reputation.

Prioritizing security culture as a core value and strategic priority will build resilience, trust, and help you keep up with the ever-changing landscape of security threats.

The 2021 Cybersecurity Culture Report found that 90% of respondents believe that a strong cybersecurity culture is essential for successful cybersecurity outcomes.

Benefits of a strong security culture

Reduce potential risk: A solid security culture framework will help promote awareness and accountability so that your organization can identify and mitigate security risks before they escalate into major incidents. Research from Gartner indicates that organizations with a strong security culture experience 30% fewer security incidents than those without one.

Stay compliant: Does your industry have regulations and data protection laws? A security-focused culture ensures that your employees understand their obligations and take appropriate measures to protect sensitive data and maintain compliance with legal requirements.

Keep up with the latest cyber threats: A security-focused culture will keep your organization innovating and continuously improving its security posture. Phishing attacks are constantly changing - so keeping on top of the latest tactics is absolutely essential.

Build resilience: Even if your organization does fall victim to cyber incidents, building resilience into your culture will minimize their impact and help keep business operation functioning as usual.

How to create a security culture in your organization

Step 1: Make sure leadership is committed to security

Company leaders will play a critical role in establishing and promoting a security culture within your organization...

They set the tone for the entire organization by demonstrating a commitment to security and making it a priority.

You'll need to ensure your company's leadership team are bought in so that they can allocate budget, develop security policies and procedures and promote the importance of security awareness across your organization.

Step 2: Develop your security policies and procedures  

Begin by conducting a risk assessment to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks (the type of data you handle, your industry regulations, and your organization's specific security requirements).

You'll then need to determine what you aim to achieve with your security measures - it could be protecting sensitive data, ensuring compliance with regulations, or mitigating specific risks.

When it comes to choosing a security framework, this will obviously depend on your organization's needs.

Common frameworks include ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and CIS Controls.

Once you've got your framework down, you can then begin drafting your security policies and procedures (ideally based on your risk assessment and objectives).

  • Policies: should outline high-level principles and expectations.
  • Procedures: should provide detailed instructions for implementing policies.

Note: you'll want to check that your policies and procedures are compliant with requirements, such as GDPR, HIPAA and PCI DSS.

Once implemented, you'll need to be able to monitor compliance (🚨 this is why we built Hoxhunt, to create real behaviour change you can track and measure).

Step 3: Build awareness and invest in education

To turn your policies into tangible change, you'll need to make sure employees are properly trained.

Here are a few ways to raise awareness...

Regular security training programs: Frequent training is essential for keeping employees up to date with the latest security threats and best practices for mitigating them. These programs should cover a range of topics, including phishing awareness, password hygiene, data protection, social engineering tactics, and incident response procedures.

Including cybersecurity in onboarding: Integrating cybersecurity training into the employee onboarding process ensures that new hires are familiar with your security policies and practices from day one. During orientation sessions, employees should receive training on topics such as acceptable use policies, data handling procedures, secure communication practices, and reporting protocols for security incidents.

Promoting a wider culture of security: Fostering a culture of security will help instil a shared responsibility for security. Leaders and managers should lead by example by demonstrating a commitment to security. Cyber threat reporting should be encouraged, and employees should be rewarded for identifying phishing emails and following security protocols diligently.

Step 4: Encourage strong security habits

If you want to establish a strong security culture, you'll need to encourage strong security habits and make them stick.

Here's why passwords matter

Strong passwords are the first line of defense against potential security threats.

Encourage employees to create strong, unique passwords and avoid common passwords, such as "password" or "123456".

Employees should also be updating their passwords regularly to reduce the risk of password compromise and external threats.

Use a password manager to ditch weak passwords

A password manager will help securely store and manage passwords.

Set up your employees with a reputable password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.

Implement multi-Factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) should be used wherever possible, particularly for accessing sensitive systems or applications.

Be sure to provide clear instructions on how to set up and use MFA for different accounts and platforms.

Step 5: Ask yourself if you need to introduce new tools and systems

When building a company culture of cybersecurity, you might be missing some software and systems that will support security practices.

Here are some key tools you might want to consider:

  • Endpoint security solutions: Endpoint security software protects devices such as laptops, desktops, and mobile devices from malware, ransomware, and other cyber threats (solutions typically include antivirus, anti-malware, firewall, and intrusion detection capabilities).
  • Identity and access management (IAM) solutions: These IAM solutions manage user identities, access rights, and permissions within your organization's network and systems - so you get centralized control over user authentication, authorization, and account provisioning.,
  • Security awareness training platforms: No matter what your organization;s headcount is, you'll need security awareness training to educate employees about cybersecurity best practices and raise awareness of potential threats. Beware though, not all training platform are created equal and some will be far more effective at changing behavior than others.
  • Encryption tools: These will help protect data from unauthorized access, interception, and tampering, particularly when stored on mobile devices, removable media, or cloud storage platforms.

Step 6: Monitor and audit your organization's culture of security awareness

One effective way to cultivate a robust security culture is by recognizing and rewarding positive behaviors.

Implement a system for celebrating security-conscious behavior

Recognizing and rewarding security-conscious behavior starts with establishing clear criteria for what constitutes positive security actions.

This may include following security policies and procedures, reporting suspicious activity, participating in security training, or implementing security best practices in day-to-day tasks.

You can create formal recognition programs or initiatives to acknowledge employees who demonstrate exemplary security awareness and adherence to security protocols.

This could involve issuing certificates, badges, or other tangible rewards, as well as public recognition through internal communications channels.

Create a positive feedback loop

As well as recognition programs, you may also want to think about establishing a positive feedback loop to reinforce desired security behaviors. This might involve providing constructive feedback to employees who demonstrate positive security actions, as well as offering guidance and support to those who may need additional assistance.

Here are some of the outcomes you can expect from a strong cyber security culture

  • According to the 2021 Cybersecurity Culture Study, organizations with a strong cybersecurity culture are x5.5 more likely to have well-defined security policies and procedures in place.
  • Research from the Aberdeen Group reveals that companies with a strong security culture experience 50% higher employee awareness of security risks compared to those with a weak culture.
  • A study by the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP) found that organizations with a strong cybersecurity culture are 70% more likely to meet compliance requirements for data protection regulations.
  • Data from the Cybersecurity Culture Assessment Survey conducted by SecurityScorecard shows that companies with a strong cybersecurity culture are 3 times more likely to have executive support for cybersecurity initiatives.

🔑 Key takeaways

  • Establish leadership commitment to security.
  • Develop comprehensive security policies and procedures based on risk assessment.
  • Implement regular security training programs and include cybersecurity in employee onboarding.
  • Foster a culture of security by promoting shared responsibility and rewarding positive behavior.
  • Encourage strong security habits such as using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.
  • Consider introducing new tools and systems like endpoint security solutions and IAM platforms.
  • Monitor and audit your organization's security awareness culture, recognizing and rewarding security-conscious behavior.
  • A strong cybersecurity culture leads to fewer security incidents, higher compliance rates, and increased executive support for cybersecurity initiatives.

Measurably reduce human risk with Hoxhunt

Hoxhunt is the all in one human risk management platform for phishing and security awareness training for employees that was designed to coach away risky behavior.

Traditional security awareness training doesn't work.

So, we built Hoxhunt to maximize training outcomes by serving every user a personalized learning path that measurably changes behavior.

  • 20x lower failure rates
  • 90%+ engagement rates
  • 75%+ detect rates
Hoxhunt outcomes

Creating a company culture for security FAQ

What is organizational security culture?

Organizational security culture refers to the collective beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors within an organization that prioritize and promote security awareness, compliance, and best practices to mitigate cyber risks and protect sensitive information.

Why is creating a company culture for security important?

A strong security culture helps mitigate cyber risks, comply with regulations, and preserve organizational reputation.

How do you create a security culture in an organization?

Conduct a risk assessment, choose a security framework, draft policies and procedures, and ensure compliance with regulations.

What are some key security habits employees should adopt?

Using strong passwords, utilizing password managers, and enabling multi-factor authentication are essential security habits.

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