Against such an onslaught, the stereotypical wall poster of security tips hanging in the breakroom is useless, says Julie Peeler, foundation director at the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium -- also known as (ISC) -- a global, non-profit organization that educates and certifies information security professionals. "Security training is not a one-time event. It has to be integrated throughout the entire organization, and it has to come from the top," she says.
When it comes to talking security in a way that users will listen, managers need to ensure that employees understand the security posture of the company from day one, Peeler says. They must be willing to sign confidentiality agreements, attend training and participate in ongoing awareness, all with the goal of remaining vigilant.
Companies that are most successful in their security message have moved beyond an IT-centric approach to a holistic model. Computerworld caught up with three organizations doing just that -- Intel, Royal Philips Electronics and Endurance Services -- to find out how they managed to make information security a corporatewide responsibility.
Read on for five best practices for getting the security message to sink in with employees.
Put threats into context
People don't internalize security best practices by simply being told what to do or scared into compliance, Peeler says, and Harkins agrees. "You don't want to spin information security compliance as fear," he says. "Fear is like junk food -- it can sustain you for a bit, but in the long run it's not healthy."
Instead, both experts say, employees are more likely to be motivated into compliance if security managers can put risk into a context that relates to them directly.
Most employees know that a security breach affects not just data, but the entire company's brand and reputation -- but some business units might not fully understand their potential role in a security breach, says Harkins.
A marketing team, for instance, might want to launch a new interactive website ahead if its competitors, he explains. The website's content seems harmless enough since it doesn't include intellectual property, only a few interactive screens and videos.
But what if vulnerabilities left by a third-party provider that helped develop the site allow a hacker to implant malware in one of the links found on the site? Explaining the risk ahead of time, and in a way that's specific to the department's line of business, helps ensure the group will do what's necessary to mitigate damage, Harkins says.