Wednesday, 8 July 2020

How to Embed a Positive Security Culture in the COVID-19 Remote Working ‘New Normal'

Guest Post by the information security experts at Security Risk Management Ltd

If promoting a positive company-wide security culture had been a challenge before the Covid-19 pandemic, that challenge has just become a whole lot more difficult. That is because the widespread move to remote working has added another layer of vulnerability. It is not simply a question of sharing office systems across a range of settings and the fact that some are using home computers (frequently shared with personal accounts); instead, it is that individuals are now one step removed from the reach of those responsible for in-house information security, usually the Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), and the organisation’s security protocols.

This fact has not been wasted on ever-opportunistic hackers

Email phishing attacks target individuals, often persuading them to check or type passwords on malicious domains that appear to be legitimate. Researchers have found a 600 per cent increase in the number of phishing emails worldwide this year, frequently using Coronavirus-related themes to target individuals and businesses. These are not always easy to spot, including email headings like ‘revised vacation and sick time policy’ or ‘important message from HR’. It is easy to see how a lone worker could fall into the trap.

The sharp rise in this type of attack reflects what hackers already know: that the human element of an organisation’s security is the weakest link. Of course, best practice network security relies on a number of elements but perhaps the hardest to establish is a positive security culture. CISOs have, however, struggled with this, even before the Covid-19 pandemic changed business practices. A survey of CISOs by ClubCISO reported that 49 per cent felt that organisational culture was already a block to them achieving their security objectives.

In a world where remote working has become the ‘new normal’, effectively engaging individuals is more important than ever. Understanding protocols and providing easy-to-understand training and awareness are crucial for every single user of a network system and this needs to be prioritised in the current climate. But it is equally important that employees feel able to report suspicious activity quickly and in full without fearing blame or repercussions. Without this element of positive security culture, the security policy could fail because employees will be reluctant to highlight suspicious activity, with potentially devastating consequences.

Effective Information Security Management
In the traditional setup, the CISO or ISM would be responsible for network security. Based on an office, they manage the protocols and policies for everything from regulatory and legal compliance to staff training and breach notification. Yet, with little time for preparation, many will be challenged, perhaps lacking the immediate knowledge or experience of how to translate these to the complexities of employees working from home offices.

This is not necessarily bad news but presents an opportunity for positive change. Now we are becoming used to the fact that employees no longer need to be office-based, we can take a step back and ask if the CISO actually needs to be resident within the bricks and mortar of an organisation? Would an outsourced (or virtual) CISO model not be equally well suited – if not better suited - to the ‘new normal’ of remote working?

Virtual CISOs are highly skilled professional teams, drawing on a wealth of experience, working with organisations to meet all the requirements of the CISO function. Individually assigned team members work remotely with an organisation, overseeing network security at all levels; from board-level engagement and compliance to effectively embedding a company-wide positive security culture.

It is also worth noting that they can be used for as much or as little as required, simply advising the resident CISO on strategy or developing and implementing the whole policy. Yet this best-practice alternative does not cost the earth. In fact, it is likely to cost significantly less than the traditional model, while delivering a service which is ideally suited to remote working.

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