by Bharat Mistry
Organisations have been forced to adapt rapidly over the past few months as government lockdowns banished most workers to their homes. For many, the changes they’ve made may even become permanent as more distributed working becomes the norm. This has major implications for cybersecurity. Employees are often described as the weakest link in the corporate security chain, so do they become an even greater liability when working from home?
Unfortunately, a major new study from Trend Micro finds that, although many have become more cyber-aware during lockdown, bad habits persist. CISOs looking to ramp up user awareness training may get a better ROI if they try to personalise strategies according to specific user personas.
What we found
We polled 13,200 remote workers across 27 countries to compile the Head in the Clouds study. It reveals that (72%) feel more conscious of their organisation’s cybersecurity policies since lockdown began, 85% claim they take IT instructions seriously, and 81% agree that cybersecurity is partly their responsibility. Nearly two-thirds (64%) even admit that using non-work apps on a corporate device is a risk.
Yet in spite of these lockdown learnings, many employees are more preoccupied by productivity. Over half 56% admit using a non-work app on a corporate device, and 66% have uploaded corporate data to it; 39% of respondents “often” or “always” access corporate data from a personal device; and 29% feel they can get away with using a non-work app, as IT-backed solutions are “nonsense.”
Four security personas
This is where the second part of the research comes in. Trend Micro commissioned Dr Linda Kaye, Cyberpsychology Academic at Edge Hill University, to profile four employee personas based on their cybersecurity behaviours: fearful, conscientious, ignorant and daredevil.
In this way:
Fearful employees may benefit from training and simulation tools as well as real-time feedback from security controls and mentoring.
Conscientious staff require very little training but can be used to good effect as exemplars of good behaviour and to team up with “buddies” from the other groups.
Ignorant users need gamification techniques and simulation exercises to keep them engaged in training, and may also require additional interventions to truly understand the consequences of risky behaviour.
Daredevil employees are perhaps the most challenging because their wrongdoing is the result not of ignorance but a perceived superiority to others. Organisations may need to use award schemes to promote compliance, and, in extreme circumstances, step up DLP and security controls to mitigate their risky behaviour.
By understanding that no two employees are the same, security leaders can tailor their approach in a more nuanced way. Splitting staff into four camps should ensure a more personalised approach than the one-size-fits-all training sessions most organisations run today. Employees will benefit from training and simulation platforms like Trend Micro’s Phish Insight, with its diverse library of training content designed to suit the varying cultures of organisations, skill levels and roles of employees.