How employees can play a role in cybersecurity

Nica San Juan
Nica San Juan | Staff writer
Last updated: April 22, 2021
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Cyber-attacks are currently taking place at an unprecedented scale. As a result, organizations of every size are making efforts to implement numerous cybersecurity strategies.

Some are investing in a new crop of highly-qualified IT-savvy staff members to prepare for and fight these attacks. Admittedly, hackers are always looking for opportunities to exploit weaknesses in security systems so as to uncover sensitive data. But there is one threat that many employers remain unaware of – the insider threat.

These are mostly inattentive and careless employees who might inadvertently leave loopholes open for exploitation. Businesses do not have to invest in highly-skilled staff members to fight this problem. Rather, they need to train existing staff members to prepare for and fight these attacks.

Let us analyze how every employee can contribute to cybersecurity in an organization:

1. Password security

For the experienced hacker, passwords in the business environment are virtually child’s play. Many businesses use default or preset passwords. And even when they set their own, they may end up using the same passwords for ages.

  • Have employees follow a policy of periodically changing passwords. This could be mandatory every 45 or 60 days.
  • Within the policy, including the need to combine numbers and characters so as to set strong passwords.
  • Teach them the importance of actually changing the password, rather than simply changing the number at the end, which is a common but risky habit.

2. Education on spam and phishing

One of the most common avenues of attack into business systems is through phishing emails and spam. A single click on a suspicious file from a work computer could potentially spread malware through the entire business network.

  • Teach your employees to recognize the signs, especially on convincing emails and suspicious links.
  • Train them to hover over links before they click on them and to never click a suspicious link in an ad, social media post or on email.
  • More importantly, emphasize that anytime they feel unsure, they should not click at all. And have frequent refreshers on this lesson as it is one of the major security loopholes that businesses suffer from.

3. Software downloads

In many instances, employees are not aware of what they should and should not download onto their computers at work. Software downloads pose a significant risk for businesses as they can introduce malware through rogue links into the business network system.

4. Backup system

Be sure to implement an effective backup framework for servers as well as on the machines employees use. To make sure employees do not misuse this provision, ensure that they understand how it works.

For instance, let them know that they can only recover information for a specific duration to avoid issues of data loss. With this in mind, they will understand that if they mistakenly delete an important document or file, they can contact the IT department to recover it.

5. Updates on latest tricks

After the initial training you undertake with all new employees or during the implementation of a new cybersecurity strategy, remember to always keep them in the loop on the latest tricks. Keeping them in the loop about known scams that are doing the rounds will be an extra layer of protection.

If you happen to learn about a new phishing email trick going around, be sure to let everyone know. Explain how it works and how to deal with it. This way, they will always know what to look for and how to avoid potential scams and keep business data secure.

6. Train employees not to hide mishaps

Some employees will hide mishaps from their managers or IT department to avoid getting into trouble. Reinforce the value of telling whenever something amiss happens. To encourage this, keep your reactions and those of others in positions of responsibility in check.

Hiding incidents simply increases the amount of damage that a cybersecurity threat can have on a business. A single reported incident could raise alarm and prevent a much larger breach in the long run.

If you realize that employees are hiding incidents, get to the root of the problem. It could be that strict policies put too much pressure on employees, fostering fear and the natural tendency to avoid punishment. Implement a positive culture built on an educative foundation to get rid of this eventuality.

Waging the war effectively

Being successful in the constant war against cyber-attacks depends on how well you implement a coordinated strategy that involves everyone in an organization. Employees are at the core of any such strategy as they are often the most sought-after target.

While we may expect cybersecurity attacks to come in the form of hackers forcing their way into a system, it is more common for employees to let them in, inadvertently or otherwise. Train your employees to recognize their role in the grand scheme of things and you might effectively dodge the bullet.

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