A report by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found that between 2020 and 2021 alone, there was a 68% increase in cyberattacks on companies that had the potential to compromise sensitive data. Such a figure poses major concerns to any employer who understands the importance and impact of strong cybersecurity in the workplace.

With the lingering impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the continually rising popularity of remote work, having employees well-versed in cybersecurity has become paramount in ensuring that your company’s confidential information and intellectual property remain unthreatened and secure.

Taking active measures to ensure your employees are educated and trained to practice cybersecurity within their daily work processes is an important step forward in safeguarding the organisation against potential security threats.

There are many approaches to accomplishing increased cybersecurity awareness and the methods you incorporate will depend on your specific needs, employees, goals and current methods. It’s important to take a holistic approach that covers the varying aspects of digital security to ensure that all employees, contractors and suppliers understand how to prevent, identify and mitigate risks effectively.

Detailed below are some of the strategies you can incorporate as you work towards a more cyber-aware workforce.

Ways you can increase cybersecurity awareness among employees

1. Be as clear and transparent about cybersecurity as possible

In order for employees to take cybersecurity seriously, they must first understand the importance it holds and how the company’s policies and regulations regarding it.

Cybersecurity awareness should be included in all relevant aspects of the employee experience. In particular, the employee onboarding process should set the expectation for the policies and processes they must follow to mitigate any security risks that may accompany their role.

Making sure that you communicate the importance of each individual employee in threat detection and prevention can help encourage them to be more conscious about following cybersecurity protocols. For example, focusing on their personal computer and networks when dealing with external threats focuses the issue onto their individual actions which helps them to relate to the risk on a personal level.

Communications surrounding cybersecurity should also be diversified, especially when there is an active threat targeting company systems which employees must know about as quickly as possible. Using methods such as email alone is not only inefficient, but it can also seriously expose the organisation to threats by simply getting lost amidst the abundance of daily correspondence. Combing emails with other methods such as security alerts on systems and verbal communication from managers will help ensure that cybersecurity news is spread quickly and efficiently.

When communicating with your employees, try to use simplified language in place of technical jargon. This prevents confusion and makes sure all employees are aware of what’s happening as not all of them will be technically included or be familiar with the company’s processes or current situation.

2. Keep track of devices with access to company systems

With over 60% of employees having access to company data and information through personal devices and 15%  of security breaches resulting from missing or lost devices, having strong cybersecurity awareness and policies in place is necessary for employers.

All employees should be trained on best practices when accessing company data and systems through either personal or corporate devices and understand the guidelines which govern their usage.

Some key points to consider when attempting to educate employees on secure device usage include:

  • Having a strong BYOD policy in place which outlines how personal devices may be used in relation to work-related tasks
  • Reminding all employees that authorised usage is confined only to them and letting partners, kids, friends and coworkers use the device can increase exposure to a threat
  • Educating employees on what is considered personal or company relates usage of the device
  • Ensuring employees understand why and how company devices may be monitored for their usage and be subjected to certain restrictions
  • Making sure that all devices are updated regularly to meet any new security requirements and/or updates

3. Train employees to identify cybersecurity threats

Beyond understanding the importance of cybersecurity, employees should also know how to identify potential threats that could result in a data breach. Training them to pick up on signs of suspicious activity will help them pick up risks earlier and manage them before they cause serious harm to the organisation.

When these signs are noticed, they should be reported and investigated as soon as possible so steps can be taken in the scenario the threat poses genuine concern and is serious. Examples of potential threats to watch out for and avoid include:

  • Suspicious emails (unusual content, sense of urgency, grammar and spelling errors, unfamiliar domains)
  • Pop-up or ad alerts that claim the device’s security has been compromised
  • The device suddenly slows down, lags or stops responding to your mouse or keyboard commands
  • Any offerings of free money, prizes or products

4. Secure all passwords and digital tools

Remote work combined with the usage of personal devices can result in employees falling complacent when it comes to following best practices for passwords, which have a strong influence on maintaining strong cybersecurity. Make sure to educate and remind your workers on following password protocols and put in strategies to ensure the integrity of authentication methods you’ve implemented on a regular basis.

A few ways you can do this include:

  • Ensure that your cybersecurity offboarding process includes includes changing all relevant passwords when an employee leaves the company
  • Have regular password changes conducted on all organisational tools
  • Implement two-factor authentication for increased cybersecurity
  • Advise against using one password for multiple purposes
  • Use regular training as an opportunity to educate employees on strong vs weak password practices and their consequences through real cases

To conclude, employee awareness of best practices for cybersecurity and knowledge about how to address and mitigate risks is growingly important, particularly in an era of remote work and constant online communication.

As an employer, taking steps to educate and train your employees about workplace cybersecurity allows them to understand the individual role they play in protecting the company against data breaches. To encourage strong cybersecurity awareness, your approach and message should be consistent, easy to understand and effective in conveying the significance of the issue.