Mastering Cyber Awareness: 4 Steps to Protect Your Business

By Margaret Concannon | October 24, 2023
Margaret is the Content Marketing Manager at Ntiva, and has been a marketer for managed services providers since 2013.

These days, the data that powers your business also makes you a prime target for cyber threats.

Building a secure data infrastructure takes more than state-of-the-art tools or policies; your true defense lies in cultivating a cybersecurity awareness culture. This isn't just about IT departments battening down the hatches; it's about every employee understanding their role in safeguarding company assets.

The importance of building this culture cannot be overstated! Human error is still one of the primary reasons for security breaches, with seemingly innocent actions, like clicking on a misleading link or using a weak password, potentially leading to disastrous consequences. A cybersecurity awareness culture ensures that security isn't just an afterthought but becomes as natural as breathing.  Let's kickstart that "culture change" today!

If you’d like to learn more about how Ntiva can help keep your organization safe, secure and productive, book a consultation today.

Table Of Contents

Cybersecurity Awareness vs. Cybersecurity Training: What’s the Difference?

cybersecurity training vs awareness

Protecting your digital treasures—data and assets—goes beyond systems; it's about people power.

Cybersecurity awareness is your company-wide nudge, a simple yet constant reminder through eye-catching posters or quick emails that make everyone pause and ponder, 'Is this safe?' It's not a rulebook but a mindset, ensuring everyone grasps the 'why' behind their clicks.

Now, cybersecurity training? That’s a deeper dive. This is where employees learn based on their roles, such as setting up firewalls for system admins or spotting phishing emails for regular staff members. The training is structured with dedicated sessions, workshops, or online courses tailored to specific needs.

Both a cyber awareness program and training are crucial in the fight against cyber threats. Awareness sets the tone for a security-conscious culture, while training equips employees with the skills they need. We need both general reminders and detailed know-how to keep our business safe.

How Promoting a Culture of Cyber Awareness Keeps Your Business Safer!

Promoting a culture of cyber awareness goes beyond occasional training sessions covering malware and phishing attacks. It's all about making security a natural part of our daily routine. When employees learn about the risks that come with seemingly innocent actions, such as clicking on an unfamiliar link or downloading an unverified attachment, they step up as proactive protectors of the company's digital defenses.

When an employee thinks twice about sharing sensitive info, double-checks the legitimacy of a request, or reports something suspicious, they become part of our team's shared defense against cyber threats. And...creating a culture of awareness isn't just about defense; it's also good for business. Clients and partners who see that your organization prioritizes security trust that their data is safe. This trust builds stronger relationships, fosters customer loyalty, and gives you a competitive edge.

It's this ongoing watchfulness across the company that truly matters.

Let's dive in and uncover the practical steps. Keep reading to uncover the four best steps to take to establish an ironclad cybersecurity culture in your organization.

Step 1: Make Sure You Have Buy-in From the C-Suite

Establishing a cyber awareness culture in a business boils down to having rock-solid leadership. Even the most brilliant cybersecurity programs can hit a roadblock without support from the higher-ups. Leaders have the power to shape the organization's direction, and when they actively endorse and participate in cybersecurity initiatives, it shows everyone just how important it is to protect the organization's digital assets.

In fact, a recent cybersecurity survey reported that 46% of companies have identified increased CEO support as a significant driver of cyber security-aware work culture.

Cyber Aware Work Culture

Need a few ways to get the approval you're looking for?  Here are some strategies that might do the trick:

  • Put some numbers on it: Begin by presenting leadership with concrete data on potential risks. Show them the cold, hard facts about the financial and reputational damage that cyber incidents can cause. Translating cyber threats into real-world consequences makes it crystal clear just how urgent and relatable this issue is.

  • Showcase the ROI: Show them the money! Prove to the leadership the financial perks of a proactive cyber awareness program. From saving costs to gaining client trust and improving operational efficiency, emphasize how it boosts the organization's bottom line by safeguarding its digital assets.

  • Share Peer Stories: Sometimes, real-life examples from similar industries or competitors can be eye-opening. Share stories of businesses that faced cyber incidents due to a lack of awareness and the subsequent consequences they faced.

  • Get the leadership team involved! Encourage them to take the lead in awareness campaigns or jump into training sessions. Not only will their active participation boost team morale, but it will also shine a spotlight on the significance of the program.

Finally, make sure the leadership feels like they're part of the cybersecurity culture by encouraging them to spill their thoughts, share their concerns, and dish out suggestions for improvement. After all, their input is invaluable in shaping a cyber-aware organization.

Step 2: Shake Things Up With  Real-Life Simulations!

Knowing about cyber threats is one thing, but effectively responding to them under pressure? That's a skill best honed in practice. Enter real-life simulations – controlled environments where employees can experience and combat cyber threats firsthand without the associated risks. Here's how to make the most out of attack simulations:

  • Start with the basics: If your organization is new to this concept, begin with simple scenarios. As employees become more comfortable, you can gradually introduce more complex and intricate simulations.

  • Don't miss out on the golden opportunity for feedback! After each simulation, make sure to hold a debriefing session. Shine a light on the successes, discuss areas for improvement, and provide valuable resources for further learning.

  • Keep it Varied: Don't just stick to one type of threat. Today it might be a mock phishing email; tomorrow it could be a simulated ransomware attack. This ensures employees are prepared for a diverse range of cyber threats.

  • Maintain Confidentiality: Ensure that results from these simulations aren't used punitively. The goal is education and growth, not to instill fear or embarrassment.

  • Stay Current: Just like training, ensure your simulations reflect contemporary threats. If a new type of cyber-attack is making headlines, consider creating a simulation around it.

Real-life simulations are the cyber equivalent of fire drills. They shift cybersecurity from a concept discussed in meetings to an actionable skill that employees can confidently execute. By routinely testing and refining these skills in a safe environment, you can build a workforce that's not just aware of cyber threats but adept at repelling them.

RELATED READING: The Top 5 Cybersecurity Practices for Small Businesses

Step 3: Promote a Culture of Transparent and Open Communication

Business cybersecurity steps

Promoting a culture of open communication isn't just a "nice to have," it's a vital ingredient in fortifying your organization against cyber threats. It creates an environment where cybersecurity is a shared mission for everyone, not just the IT department. 

Encouraging employees to speak up about potential security issues can make the difference between a minor hiccup and a catastrophic breach. Keep these pointers in mind when promoting an open communication policy:

  • Make it a breeze to report cyber concerns: Set up straightforward and user-friendly channels for reporting. Whether it's a dedicated email, a hotline, or an intranet portal, make sure it's as easy to access as a piece of cake.

  • No Finger-Pointing, Just Growth: Foster a blame-free culture. We all make mistakes, and it's crucial for employees to feel secure when reporting potential issues, knowing there won't be any negative consequences.

  • Give a round of applause for vigilance! Regularly shine a spotlight on and applaud those who go the extra mile to report suspicious activities. This positive reinforcement motivates others to stay on their toes and underscores the significance of being proactive.

  • Hold Open Forums: Organize regular cybersecurity forums or Q&A sessions. This educates and allows employees to voice concerns, share experiences, or seek clarifications in an open environment.

  • Share Stories: Without breaching confidentiality, share stories of reported incidents and their outcomes. It serves as a learning experience for all and emphasizes the value of prompt communication.

Silence is a cybercriminal's best ally. An unnoticed suspicious email, a silent download in the background, or an unreported login attempt from a foreign country—these can escalate from minor issues to full-blown crises if not communicated in time.

Cyber insurance

Step 4: Reward and Recognize Your Cyber Champions!

We humans thrive on acknowledgment. When employees see their colleagues being celebrated for their diligence in cybersecurity, it sends a potent message: the organization values and rewards cybersecurity vigilance. This can foster a competitive yet collaborative environment where everyone aspires to be more cyber-aware. Looking for ways you can foster a "culture of recognition' into your cyber awareness program?  Try one (or more) of the following strategies:

  • Cyber Champion of the Month: Let's shout out to the cybersecurity superstar! Each month, we'll recognize the employee who goes above and beyond to adhere to cybersecurity protocols and detect potential threats. Keep up the amazing work!

  • Give a big high-five (and a shiny bonus) to employees who show off their top-notch cybersecurity skills. They deserve a well-earned reward if they ace a real-life simulation or report a genuine threat.

  • Spice things up with a gamified twist. 🎲 Why not introduce a leaderboard where employees can earn points for being cybersecurity superstars? Engaging in best practices, acing training sessions, and nailing quizzes will earn them a top spot. Let the cyber games begin!

  • Give a round of applause during team meetings or include shout-outs in company newsletters to recognize and celebrate employees' cybersecurity achievements. This not only shows appreciation for their efforts but also encourages them to become role models within the organization. Keep up the fantastic work, cyber champions!

When transforming an organization, giving credit where credit is due is crucial. So don't forget about those proactive heroes who champion cybersecurity. By shining a light on these 'cyber champions,' we set the bar high for everyone else to follow suit.

It's a Team Effort!

Keep in mind, cybersecurity is a team effort. When it becomes ingrained in your culture, your organization becomes not only safer but also well-prepared for a future full of digital opportunities and challenges. Embrace these steps, become a champion of cybersecurity, and thrive securely in the digital age.

New call-to-action

Tags: Cybersecurity