Security Culture: The Foundation for Organizational Resilience

When you think about cybersecurity risks, do you think of computer viruses, hacked passwords, or problems with technology and websites?

Many organizations spend a lot of money on fancy tools and cutting-edge technologies to safeguard their valuable information from malicious actors. That is a good thing, but sometimes they forget that the biggest threat to cybersecurity is actually people – and that includes you and the people around you.

This is not to suggest that you are constantly surrounded by cybercriminals without your knowledge. Instead, it underscores the age-old adage that “to err is human.”

This is also, why social engineering exists. Remember the 2020 Twitter hack where famous accounts were overtaken? Yeah, it happened due to social engineering, (Human error). The perpetrators had gained access to Twitter’s administrative tools so that they could alter the accounts themselves and post the tweets directly.

The rising threat of cyberattacks, data breaches, and other security incidents has made it imperative for organizations to not only invest in robust mindset measures but also foster a strong security culture. A security culture goes beyond the implementation of technology; it involves creating a mindset and a set of behaviours that prioritize security as an integral part of an organization’s DNA. In this article, we will explore the elements of security culture and why organizations need one.

What is Security Culture?

Security culture refers to the set of values, shared by everyone in an organization, that determine how people are expected to think about and approach security. Getting the security culture right will help develop a security-conscious workforce, and promote the desired security behaviours you want from staff.

Elements of Security Culture

Cybersecurity culture covers the entire organization, including teams, processes, metrics, and tools. Introducing the following qualities and top practices across the whole company is a significant challenge for security leaders, but it has never been more critical

  1. Leadership Commitment: Security culture begins at the top, with leaders demonstrating a commitment to security. When executives and managers prioritize security, it sets the tone for the entire organization.
    Terms and specifics may be established by the CISO, but executives and senior management across all teams are responsible for setting precedents and defining the strategic context for what security looks like in their departments. Leaders also have personal interests here, as they are common targets for attackers.

  2. Awareness and Training: Building awareness within organizations is half the battle of mitigating cyber threats — especially because social engineering and human error account for the majority of penetrations.
    Employees should be educated about security risks and best practices. Regular training sessions can help employees recognize potential threats, such as phishing emails, and respond appropriately. There are phishing simulated trainings that employees can partake in, to help them understand how phishing works, how to identify red flags in emails and so on.

    Security awareness programs create a sense of responsibility among employees, making them active participants in the organization’s security efforts.

  3. Clear Policies and Procedures: Well-defined security policies and procedures are the backbone of a security culture. These documents outline expectations, standards, and guidelines for security-related activities. Policies should cover areas such as data handling, access control, incident response, and acceptable use of technology resources.

  4. Risk Assessment and Management: This involves the identification, analysis, and evaluation of potential risks to an organization’s operations. This process helps organizations to implement strategies that mitigate or eliminate identified risks. Risk management involves prioritizing identified risks, implementing controls, and regularly monitoring and reviewing the security posture.

     The goal is to develop strategies that will minimize the impact of these risks and enable the organization to continue operating smoothly. It is an important aspect of any organization’s operations and should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the risks are effectively managed. Organizations should conduct regular risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and threats. This allows for proactive security measures.

  5. Collaboration and Communication: Effective communication is crucial in a security culture. Employees should feel comfortable reporting security incidents or concerns.

    Cross-functional collaboration between IT, security, legal, and other departments is essential for a holistic security strategy.  To maintain a robust security culture, organizations need a diverse team responsible for Identifying risks and opportunities. Aligning security priorities across departments, Streamlining tools and vendors, and Implementing safeguards across functions and teams.

    This cross-functional team also helps identify cultural barriers to security. United Airlines, for example, has “cyber ambassadors” and “friends of security” from various teams to spot security issues, ensuring a comprehensive approach to security.

  6. Continuous Improvement: A security culture is dynamic and adapts to evolving threats. Regularly reviewing and improving security practices is essential. This is why incident reports are important, this is the process of capturing, recording and managing an incident occurrence such as an injury, property damage or security incident.
    These follow-on forms ensure that the incident occurrence causes are investigated to potentially mitigate and aim to prevent the same type of incident from happening again.

Why Organizations Need a Security Culture

  1. Protecting Sensitive Data: Organizations handle vast amounts of sensitive data, including customer information, intellectual property, and financial records. A strong security culture helps safeguard this data from theft, breaches, and unauthorized access.

  2. Reputation Management: Security breaches can severely damage an organization’s reputation. Customers, partners, and stakeholders expect their data to be protected. A robust security culture demonstrates a commitment to this protection.

  3. Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to stringent data protection and privacy regulations. Maintaining a security culture ensures compliance with these laws and helps avoid costly fines and legal consequences.

  4. Reducing Security Incidents: A security culture can significantly reduce the likelihood of security incidents. Employees who are security-conscious are less likely to fall victim to social engineering attacks, and they are more likely to follow best practices.

  5. Enhancing Business Resilience: Cyberattacks and security incidents can disrupt business operations. A security culture prepares an organization to respond effectively to such incidents, minimizing downtime and financial losses.


In today’s digital landscape, security is not an option; it is a necessity. Organizations that prioritize security culture are better equipped to defend against the ever-evolving threat landscape.
While the need for a security culture is universal, it is not one size fits all. It is crucial employees understand their specific responsibilities and how their roles and behaviours can help or hinder the overall security structure of an organization. 

Let’s face it, you can’t improve what you can’t track. To foster a healthy security culture, it’s important to know where your employees stand. How aware are users within your organization? Would they stand the test against sophisticated phishing attacks?

Sign up for a free security culture assessment today to find out.

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