Signs of a strong security culture
Updated: Apr 4
What exactly are the signs of a strong Security Culture? Why is it often confused for or used interchangeably with security awareness? And how do you measure the maturity of a company's security culture?
In today's threat landscape, data breaches and phishing attacks have unfortunately become common headlines, and the importance of a strong security awareness program is now glaringly evident. Business leaders are aware that human error exists and are increasingly concerned with mitigating their human cyber risk. Here's what you can take a look at after you've enrolled your employees in an awareness training program.
Security Culture vs Security Awareness
First, let's clear up any ambiguity surrounding the difference between security culture and security awareness.
Security culture is the set of security philosophies, values, and behaviours upheld by a group that influences their security. (which is considerably more intricate than implementing security awareness or phishing training).
Security awareness training and phishing campaigns are crucial aspects of a mature security program and provide valuable data about the security actions that your users take. However, training data alone doesn't answer all of the questions. To evaluate the strength or success of a security culture within a group, we need to know why users do what they do. One of the best ways to measure this is to distribute a security culture survey and assess the results.
5 Signs that you are building a strong security culture
Security belongs to everyone! A strong security culture doesn't mean that security incidents won't happen, or that no one will ever click a phishing email link again. But it does mean that your employees will be more likely to report the mistake when it happens. Developing a security culture requires that the entire group adopts positive security beliefs, attitudes, and actions. You'll also need buy-in from top-level executives and engaged participation from employees. (this multi-level support goes a long way to strengthen the security culture of any organization)
If you are just at the beginning of your security culture journey: here are some helpful tips for establishing a security culture within your organization. Keep in mind that creating a healthy security culture takes time, effort, and consistency. So if you've already been developing this change within your organization, here are some signs of a strong security culture that indicate your progress is successful.
1. Beliefs are aligned.
Your employees believe that their participation in security is vital for the company's continued success.
How to find out if beliefs are aligned:
Is there clear communication with your employees about security expectations at your organization? Have all employees received security awareness training? Do your employees believe that their involvement in security awareness training is necessary?
2. The attitude of security is present and positive.
Your employees view security as something positive they are contributing towards for the strength of the business. Rather than seeing security as a frustrating or distracting part of their workday, they involve the security team early on in projects and look forward to training.
How to find out if a strong security culture attitude is present:
Once beliefs are aligned and established, ask questions that answer, "what is the general attitude surrounding security issues within the organization?". How do your employees feel about security training? Do your employees apply their learning outside of the office? Have they developed new security habits or shared the new knowledge with their family and friends?
3. Changes in behaviour display security thinking.
Security-conscious behaviour shifts when beliefs and attitudes change. Have you noticed a decrease in impulsive behaviours or an increase in security thinking? Are your employees following your organization’s security guidelines on opening attachments, clicking links, resetting passwords, and visiting web pages?
How to discover if a change in behaviour indicates a strong security culture:
Monitor the results of your security awareness training, and phishing campaigns. You can check the data to observe if are any notable differences within the results. For example: Observing a decrease in employees clicking phishing links and seeing an increase in employees reporting phishing emails, may indicate a positive shift in the development of a stronger cybersecurity culture at your workplace.
4. A long-term pattern emerges.
A reliable health indicator of an emerging security culture is when positive behaviour changes remain consistent over an extended period of time. For example, if you have observed a continued pattern of positive security behaviours such as reporting phishing emails -- it's significance is especially valuable when there is no reward or recognition to be gained.
Keep an eye out for patterns that emerge between your security awareness training and phishing campaigns. If the positive security behaviours rapidly decline after a campaign has ended, it may be time to consider whether or not the behavioural changes are primarily motivated by a potential reward. It can be frustrating to observe results that indicate a need for further development in previously targeted areas. However, establishing a sustainable security culture is rarely a linear process. It is best to avoid those fatal shortcuts (no matter how tempting they may seem...at first). The need to revisit and check up on the general security attitudes and beliefs throughout your organization does not always mean that you are experiencing a setback. In fact, conducting security surveys is recommended regardless of how mature your security culture or security program is. No matter how far along you are in developing a security culture, you will want to check in every once in a while for an update and to gain perspective on the health of your culture. The energy expended towards understanding and improving the current beliefs, attitudes, and values surrounding security could be the catalyst necessary to establish or strengthen the security culture within your workplace.
5. Transformation - Security actions are evident, encouraged and supported.
Transformation occurs when security has become second nature, feels like a way of life, and is everyone's responsibility. Within the workplace, security topics are discussed openly and are a regular part of the environment.
safe to ask questions
feel confident in raising concerns about security topics
know both how and where to report cybersecurity incidents and potential threats<