Carrots and Sticks! How to improve your security culture …

Posted: November 3, 2018 by IntentionalPrivacy in Compliance, HIPAA - HITECH, Privacy, Security or Privacy Initiatives, Tips, Vulnerabilities
Tags: , ,

Originally written for Third Rock

Sticks

Just like technology controls, administrative controls work better when they are layered. Almost every organization has an administrative control “stick” in the form of policies. The purpose of policies is to explain the rules as well as the consequences if the rules are not followed.

But do the employees really understand what every policy means? Some may be too embarrassed to ask for an explanation if they do not understand a particular policy. Another issue with policies may occur if an employee does not remember what they agreed to five minutes after they handed in their signed policy understanding statement.

Carrots

This is where a security awareness program can help improve an organization’s security culture enormously. It does not have to be expensive to be effective. The program will also be more effective if security awareness training can involve employees. Here are some techniques:

  • Make security training interactive. Use only a small number of PowerPoint slides, tell relevant stories, and keep it short and engaging.

Look for ways to make security important to an employee’s personal life; for instance, show how they can better protect their families online. Employees who practice good security hygiene at home will be better at understanding and implementing security at work.

People learn different ways! The more types of senses used during the training, the better it will be remembered by the audience. Break up the training monotony with focus groups, table-top exercises, and question-and-answer sessions. Instead of having a once-a-year marathon, have sessions monthly or even quarterly. If they are held during lunch make sure you provide food.

There are several places to find resources online. StaySafeOnline.org is one example; they have tip sheets and videos for all age groups and even for businesses. The FTC also offers resources at their Stick with Security blog.

  • Encourage employees to turn in social engineering attempts. Give a small reward, such as a coffee cup, to the first employee who turns in a security issue, such as a phishing email or a social engineering phone call. Maybe your organization will want to stipulate that an employee would be eligible to win a prize once a quarter to give other employees a chance to win. Add the names of each submitter to a list for a prize drawing to be held at the end of the year or at an employee meeting. Send out emails with sample snapshots of the latest attacks, so others can avoid them.
  • Staff are human; if someone makes an honest mistake, reward them for reporting it immediately. The sooner it gets turned in, the faster the issue can be resolved. Of course, the staff person needs to understand what happened and how to avoid it in the future. Organizational controls should also be reviewed to help avoid that issue in the future. Maybe a policy needs to be changed, some staff need retraining, or maybe a technical control can be added to eliminate the issue.
  • Have a process for reporting lost or stolen devices that includes who to contact and how. Decide if the process should include automatic wiping of the device. Make sure that employees are aware of the process.
  • Have a response plan for when a security issue is reported, whether an employee, a customer, a vendor, or a volunteer is the person reporting.. Ensure that a contact is always available for found security or privacy issues.
  • Post a short list of actions for possible security and privacy issues in a prominent place like a break room or a kitchen. Also give the list to employees so they know what to do in an emergency.

Peopleyour customers, your employees, your partners—make a security program work!

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