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How to Address Rising Cybersecurity Concerns Among Your Employees and Customers

Key Points in This Article:

  • Today, cybersecurity is a rising concern across all business areas.
  • Businesses must strategically deploy resources to each cybersecurity layer to mitigate the risk of an attack or breach.
  • Nontechnical employees must have the appropriate training to reduce the risk of an attack and respond appropriately if it occurs.

Cybersecurity concerns are rising, and not just among IT professionals. Ransomware and other cyberattacks have long kept CIOs and IT staff members up at night. But nowadays, more and more business leaders, along with seasoned and junior employees, are talking about these threats.

Whether their current or former employer has experienced a cyberattack or they’ve been a victim of a phishing or other scam in their personal life, employees are more aware of the danger cyberattacks can pose. The increase in mainstream news coverage, driven by high-profile attacks, such as those on JBS Foods and the Colonial Pipeline company, and the use of cyber warfare in foreign conflicts, have helped spread the cybersecurity conversation beyond the borders of the in-house IT department.

Customers, suppliers, and vendors also want to know that businesses will keep their information safe. And without the right plan, along with the resources and will to implement it, a business could easily face irreparable damage from the very following phishing email their employees receive.

The Seven Layers of Cybersecurity

The fact that more people are talking about cybersecurity is a good thing. For a business to be as secure as possible, all its employees must understand the threats they face and how their work practices can increase or decrease the risk those threats pose.

Of course, IT professionals work on the technical aspects of cybersecurity. But nontechnical employees play a critical role too. Consider the conventional seven layered-cybersecurity model, which includes the following:

  1. Human layer: This layer ensures that the entire organization understands the threats they face on an ongoing basis and are governed by IT policies that mitigate the risk of those threats.
  2. Perimeter layer: The perimeter layer can be considered the wall or border of your network and involves measures like firewalls and spam filters.
  3. Network layer: The layer involves designing your network in a manner that limits the ability of intruders to access its most vital areas.
  4. Endpoint layer: When IT professionals consider the endpoint layer, they deploy measures, such as anti-virus software, that prevent intruders from accessing connected devices, like phones or servers.
  5. Application layer: The application layer concerns ensuring that all applications enjoy the most up-to-date security measures and that any identified vulnerabilities have been remediated.
  6. Data layer: IT professionals employ various encryption measures to safeguard data and make it unusable if intercepted in transmission or stolen from a connected device.
  7. Mission-critical layer: The mission-critical layer includes backups and data recovery planning.

Of these layers, it’s the first that is the most vulnerable. Multiple studies show that the human layer is typically the weakest of all seven security layers. And it’s usually because of a few simple factors.

Vulnerabilities In the Human Layer

Employees typically are not trained, practiced in, and held accountable for evaluating the authenticity and credibility of the emails they see and websites they browse. Accordingly, they deliver malware to their employer’s doorstep and, in some cases, throw the door wide open.

Businesses often don’t employ or enforce multifactor authentication (MFA). They also frequently fail to require employees to change their passwords periodically or make them difficult to guess. But these easily rectifiable errors make it much easier for criminals and attackers to compromise corporate networks.

Additionally, business and IT leaders often neglect the physical security aspect of cybersecurity. Limiting access to physical spaces where data is stored is a good first step. But even devices connected to a business network, such as a smartphone or surveillance camera, can present a significant vulnerability. Crafting an effective cybersecurity plan requires businesses to incorporate physical security considerations, which are often overlooked.

For nontechnical employees to feel confident that they’re secure, businesses must mandate regular cybersecurity awareness training in place. This training should incorporate practical exercises that prime them to identify and act on common threats they may encounter. It should be periodically updated to incorporate information on emerging threats as well.

When employees participate in regular cybersecurity awareness training, they not only develop a clear understanding of the full scope of cybersecurity measures, such as MFA, in place. But they also can feel confident that client data, as well as their own sensitive information, is safe as well. And when they are, they can provide confident assurances to customers, vendors, and suppliers about the safety of their data.

Prioritizing the Mission Critical Layer

Many businesses also neglect to prioritize the mission-critical layer. No matter how well-protected the other layers are, businesses must account for the possibility of a breach. And in the event of one, they must be able to restore operations as quickly as possible, as every hour of downtime means lost sales and revenue.

Some aspects of the mission-critical layer are technical in nature. But by and large, nontechnical employees don’t know what to do in the event of a breach. While IT professionals will work to recover data and restore backups, nontechnical employees are often left in the dark and unable to make decisions regarding and communicate effectively with customers, suppliers, and vendors.

Further, many IT professionals have not practiced data recovery operations to ensure that their plans are sound and that they can quickly enact them when an actual breach occurs. Some businesses don’t regularly check their backups to ensure they are functioning correctly, allowing them to restore operations without data loss.

Ensuring proper attention to the mission-critical layer is also vital to cybersecurity. When neglected, it can make what otherwise might be a minor incident into a major one. Business and IT leaders must ensure that their employees are trained to help prevent threats and respond appropriately when an attack occurs.