March 10, 2023 By Jennifer Gregory 4 min read

You may think this article is going to discuss how users are one of the biggest challenges to cybersecurity. After all, employees are known to click on unverified links, download malicious files and neglect to change their passwords. And then there are those who use their personal devices for business purposes and put the network at risk.

Yes, all those people can cause issues for cybersecurity. But the people who are usually blamed for cybersecurity issues wouldn’t have such an impact if organizational leadership — not only the CISO or IT department — prioritized cybersecurity.

If you are a company leader, this article is for you. You know cybersecurity is very important. Every leader does. But do you keep it at the forefront of every decision? And do you constantly share that message with your employees? Even the most cyber-aware leader likely has room for improvement. There is a difference between saying cybersecurity is important and backing up this belief with your actions and decisions.

Your employees and other leaders value your opinion and listen to you. If you don’t prioritize the security of your data, apps and infrastructure, your employees won’t either. Even your small actions and decisions make an impact on the entire company’s risk of a cybersecurity attack.

It’s not an easy shift to make, and it’s hard to admit that you are part of the problem. But you aren’t alone — almost every company leader can improve their advocacy and prioritization of cybersecurity in some way.

Here are three keys to solving the people problem in cybersecurity.

Understand the business value of cybersecurity

Real change in cybersecurity only happens when an organization realizes its business success depends on its cybersecurity practices. Having the most amazing product only takes you so far, especially if customers take their business elsewhere after their personal data is stolen. The best salespeople in the world can’t overcome customer distrust after a highly publicized breach. And customer loyalty only goes so far when your business is continually disrupted due to cyberattacks.

In today’s climate, breaches are a “when not if” proposition. The IBM 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report found that 83% of companies had more than one data breach, with the average cost of a breach at $4.35 million. Additionally, 60% of organizations raised prices for customers after the breach due to increased costs. The study also found that the cost of breaches was much higher than average, at $5.57 million for organizations with high levels of compliance failures.

When your organization suffers a breach, it’s not simply an IT problem but a major company-wide issue. The first step to fully protecting your organization is truly understanding the business impact of a breach or cybersecurity attack, as well as the value of a proactive cybersecurity initiative. With a proactive mindset, you can make the decisions necessary to fully protect your organization.

Create a culture of cybersecurity

The next step is to impart the mindset of cybersecurity to your employees. Leaders create the organization’s culture. By proactively creating a culture of cybersecurity along with your company’s core culture, your organization can significantly reduce its cybersecurity risk.

Instead of employees viewing cybersecurity as the IT department’s job, each employee and team must feel personally responsible for cybersecurity. Employees need to understand that their actions — even something as simple as not updating software patches on their phones — can cause a major cybersecurity attack that costs the company millions of dollars.

Teams must place cybersecurity as a top priority when designing new processes, products and services. The cybersecurity team and IT department are available to provide expertise, but the employees on the front lines are the ones in the position to make the most difference.

Creating and maintaining a cybersecurity culture doesn’t mean talking about it once a year at mandatory cybersecurity training. Yes, employees need training, but it should be more frequent and interspersed throughout the year. By continually talking about cybersecurity, such as giving reminders of good cybersecurity hygiene and updates on current threats, leaders can help employees keep security issues at the top of their minds.

Allocate the resources

Mindset and culture set the stage and the foundation for a successful cybersecurity program. Without both of those in place, you cannot and will not make the business decisions needed to create an effective cybersecurity framework. But your organization can only protect its apps, data and infrastructure when the right resources — both human and technology — are in place. Leaders must fully buy into the importance of cybersecurity; only then will they make the business decisions necessary to protect the organization.

Having the right technology on board makes a significant difference in the impact of any breach. With a zero trust approach, organizations reduce both their risk of a breach and the impact when one occurs. Organizations with a mature zero trust deployment versus early adoption of zero trust saved an average of $1.51 million after a breach. Additionally, organizations with Extended Detection and Response (XDR) technology identified and contained breaches an average of 29 days earlier than those without.

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s easy to focus on technology and strategies. But the biggest issue with cybersecurity really does come down to people. And the only way to make a difference in the actions and attitudes of those on the front lines is for leaders like yourself to approach each day with cybersecurity as a priority.

The future of your business depends on you as a company leader taking the message of cybersecurity to heart. Your mindset and attitude on cybersecurity are on stage for every person in your company to see. By prioritizing cybersecurity, you have the ability to make a positive impact on your entire company.

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