How to Build a Cybersecurity Culture in Your Business

Cybersecurity comprises the solutions, practices and strategies your company puts in place to protect sensitive business data, assets, and systems. But creating a list of processes, and adopting that shiny new security software suite isn’t enough to guarantee their effectiveness.

One key challenge we see many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face is ensuring consistency in applying the cybersecurity best practices they established, and leveraging the security tools they purchased, to their fullest. This leads to frustration in general operations, eroded customer trust, and a lack of value derived from cybersecurity solutions overall.

To combat this, building a cybersecurity culture is paramount to emphasize the importance of proactive security measures, and to get the most out of these sophisticated tools. This involves:

This blog will detail what constitutes a cybersecurity culture for SMBs today, how to build an effective cybersecurity culture from the ground-up, and why managed services may be your best option to implement it.

What is a cybersecurity culture?

A cybersecurity culture in your business is more than just a set of policies – it’s a mindset shared by everyone in your organization. It involves creating an environment where every employee,  from top management to entry-level, understands the role and importance of cybersecurity, and actively participates in safeguarding your company’s digital assets. It’s about integrating cybersecurity practices into everyday operations, making them second nature, which includes simple actions like using strong passwords, recognizing phishing attempts, and following secure data handling procedures to meet regulatory compliance standards.

For small and medium-sized businesses, building this cybersecurity culture starts with education. Regular cyber awareness training sessions, led by your in-house IT team (or a specialist managed service provider if you lack the internal expertise) can help your employees stay informed about the latest threats and best practices. Your leadership team must also set a good example by prioritizing cybersecurity in decision-making and resource allocation.

Additionally, utilizing managed services can enhance your cybersecurity posture. These services provide expert support and advanced tools to help protect your business from cyberattacks, ensuring that your defenses are always up to date and guided by specialists.

In essence, a cybersecurity culture transforms your team into a unified front against cyber threats, fostering a secure and resilient business environment.

How SMBs can build a cybersecurity culture

Building a cybersecurity culture in your small or medium-sized business involves a multifaceted and careful approach. Here are four key strategies to get started on your journey.

1. Invest in education and training

It is important to regularly educate and train your employees on cybersecurity best practices to ensure they not only are able to navigate and understand your new security systems, but also are very clear on their role in the business – whether it’s for application security, cloud security, network security, or a dedicated security information and event management (SIEM) system.

Some training options include:

Workshops and seminars: Host interactive sessions where either your in-house IT team that manages your security systems, or external cybersecurity experts from MSPs can share the latest information on cyber threats and proven defenses. These sessions should be engaging and practical, allowing your employees to ask questions and participate in hands-on activities.

Phishing simulations: Conduct regular simulations of cyber-related threats, such as data breaches and social engineering events, to help your employees better recognize and respond to signs of phishing attempts. These exercises can help build vigilance and improve response times in the face of real threats, making them an essential part of your training program.

E-learning modules: Provide accessible online courses that your employees can complete at their own pace. These modules should cover essential topics, such as recognizing phishing attempts, creating strong passwords, and secure data handling practices – some of which we cover in more detail in the article linked below.

Clear policies and procedures help build and maintain a cybersecurity culture in your business
2. Clear policies and procedures

As part of your cybersecurity strategy foundation, it’s important to establish clear communication, policies and procedures around your organization’s approach to cybersecurity practices in the business, which you expect (and require) your staff to follow as part of their everyday workflows. 

This sets key expectations around your stance to cybersecurity upfront, and stresses the importance of adherence to your workforce as they get adjusted to the new protections and systems in place. 

Some examples include:

Password management: Implement authentication and identity policies that require the use of strong, unique passwords and encourage the use of password managers to store them securely. Regularly update these policies to adapt to new security challenges. Provide clear guidelines on creating strong passwords and mandate regular password changes to enhance overall security.

Data handling: Define precise protocols for how business sensitive data should be stored, accessed, and shared. Ensure that all your employees understand these protocols and the importance of following them to prevent data breaches, as breaches can be both unintentional and malicious in nature, even if caused by your staff. Implement encryption and access controls to protect data integrity and confidentiality.

Incident response: Develop a detailed incident response plan outlining the steps to be taken in the event of a security breach. Make sure all of your employees are aware of their roles within this plan, and conduct regular drills to test its effectiveness and improve readiness. Regularly review and update the plan to incorporate lessons learned from drills and real incidents. If you don’t know where to start with incident response planning, it’s highly recommended at this point to seek assistance from a cybersecurity MSP who specialize in cyber resilience planning overall.

3. Foster a security-first mindset

Cultivating a culture where cybersecurity is seen as a shared responsibility and an integral part of your business operations is led from the top-down. That means you need to ensure your leadership team is not only well-versed on the technical side of your new cybersecurity solutions and the protection systems they bring, but also the mindset of why such measures are crucial.

Some examples to focus on include:

Leadership commitment: Ensure that your top management prioritizes cybersecurity as an initiative (and not just as another modernization project) and leads by example. When leadership demonstrates a commitment to security, it sets a tone that encourages all your employees to take cybersecurity seriously. Leadership should allocate adequate resources and regularly communicate the importance of cybersecurity to the entire organization, taking a proactive role in educational sessions and future up-skilling.

Open communication: Promote open communication about cybersecurity within your organization. Encourage employees to report suspicious activities and share best practices. This transparency helps to create an environment where everyone feels responsible for maintaining security, and ensures nobody feels hesitant if or when unfortunate accidents or false sighting occur. Establish clear channels for reporting issues within the business, and ensure that your employees know how to use them.

Reward and recognition: Recognize and reward employees who contribute to your cybersecurity efforts. Whether through formal recognition programs or informal praise, acknowledging their efforts reinforces the importance of cybersecurity and motivates others to follow suit. Consider implementing a rewards program that incentivizes proactive security behavior and continuous learning.

4. Seek an IT partner with managed services

Cybersecurity is a complex and long-term modern workplace initiative that does require some technical expertise and guidance in order to successfully implement many cybersecurity solutions, such as backup and disaster recovery (BCDR), SIEM or detection response, into your existing operations. As an SMB, it is understandable if you don’t have an existing IT team or the internal resources or knowledge to lead such a project, and if you are at that stage, we highly recommend looking to partner with an external IT consultancy/managed service provider.

MSPs specializing in security not only help implement these solutions into your business, but they can also fully manage the maintenance and support of these systems on your behalf, help up-skill your current workforce with training sessions, and provide general peace-of-mind that you are on the right track when it comes to establishing your cybersecurity roadmap.

Some examples of areas that MSPs can assist you with:

24/7 monitoring: Managed services can be used to provide continuous monitoring of your systems for unusual activity or potential breaches. This constant vigilance helps to detect and respond to threats more quickly, without having to dedicate a resource within the business to manually watch for threats. Managed services can offer advanced threat detection and response capabilities that may be beyond your internal IT resources.

Advanced security tools: Leverage the advanced tools and technologies offered by managed service providers, such as firewalls, anti-malware software, and intrusion detection systems. These tools provide an additional layer of protection beyond what you may be able to implement internally. Managed services can also help keep these tools updated and properly configured.

Expert support: Gain access to cybersecurity experts who can help you develop, implement, and maintain robust security measures. Their expertise can be invaluable in navigating complex cybersecurity challenges and staying ahead of evolving threats. Managed services can also offer ongoing advice and support, helping you adapt to new security requirements and best practices.

How to build a cybersecurity culture in your business: Next steps

By focusing on these four areas – education and training, clear policies and procedures, utilizing managed services, and fostering a security-first mindset – you can build a robust cybersecurity culture that protects your business from threats and promotes a secure working environment.

But, as with all IT initiatives, getting up-to-speed on the topic is just the beginning of your journey. If you are looking to the next stage of your cybersecurity initiative, speak to the team at SparkNav today, and learn how we can provide customized IT support plans that are tailored to your cybersecurity needs today – and for the long-term future.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.